Individual-based model for the control of Bovine Viral Diarrhea spread in livestock trade networks

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) is a cattle disease that causes substantial financial losses, in particular to the dairy industry. Hence, several countries including Germany introduced compulsory disease control programs. For the case of Germany in particular, all animals had to be tested and persistently infected animals (PI animals) were removed from the population. The program was successful in reducing the number of PI animals, but was overtly expensive. Alternative approaches were therefore discussed to eliminate the remaining PI animals and alter the testing system in order to reduce costs. Contributing to these efforts, we developed an agent-based model that aimed to cover all relevant aspects of the disease biology and would allow to evaluate different control strategies. For the biological part of the infection spread, the model includes horizontal and vertical transmission, transient and persistent infections. Moreover, several control strategies including import of animals, trade restrictions, vaccination, as well as various testing schemes were included. The model was furthermore defined to be stochastic, event-driven and hierarchical, with cattle movements as the main route of spreading between farms. For the spread within farms, we included susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) dynamics with an additional permanently infectious class. The interaction between the farms was described by a supply and demand farm manager mechanism governing the network structure and dynamics. Additionally, we carried out a sensitivity analysis of the input parameters to study the impact of extreme values on the model. Since the population size in the model is limited, we tested the influence of the initial population size on the model results. Our results showed that the model could accurately describe the dynamics of the disease in the presence and absence of disease control. Although we developed the model for the spread of BVD, it may be adapted to similar diseases of cattle and swine.

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