Sheep Movement Networks and the Transmission of Infectious Diseases

Victoriya V. Volkova, Richard Howey, Nicholas J. Savill, Mark E. J. Woolhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Methodology: Various approaches have been used to investigate how properties of farm contact networks impact on the transmission of infectious diseases. The potential for transmission of an infection through a contact network can be evaluated in terms of the basic reproduction number, R-0. The magnitude of R-0 is related to the mean contact rate of a host, in this case a farm, and is further influenced by heterogeneities in contact rates of individual hosts. The latter can be evaluated as the second order moments of the contact matrix (variances in contact rates, and co-variance between contacts to and from individual hosts). Here we calculate these quantities for the farms in a country-wide livestock network: >15,000 Scottish sheep farms in each of 4 years from July 2003 to June 2007. The analysis is relevant to endemic and chronic infections with prolonged periods of infectivity of affected animals, and uses different weightings of contacts to address disease scenarios of low, intermediate and high animal-level prevalence.

Principal Findings and Conclusions: Analysis of networks of Scottish farms via sheep movements from July 2003 to June 2007 suggests that heterogeneities in movement patterns (variances and covariances of rates of movement on and off the farms) make a substantial contribution to the potential for the transmission of infectious diseases, quantified as R-0, within the farm population. A small percentage of farms (<20%) contribute the bulk of the transmission potential (>80%) and these farms could be efficiently targeted by interventions aimed at reducing spread of diseases via animal movement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11185
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2010


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