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Open Access Research article

The potential spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus via dynamic contacts between poultry premises in Great Britain

Jennifer E Dent15*, Istvan Z Kiss3, Rowland R Kao4 and Mark Arnold2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, 16 Richmond Street, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XQ, UK

2 Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB, UK

3 Department of Mathematics, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RF, UK

4 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 464 Bearsden Road, Glasgow, G61 1QH, UK

5 Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2011, 7:59  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-59

Published: 13 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses have had devastating effects on poultry industries worldwide, and there is concern about the potential for HPAI outbreaks in the poultry industry in Great Britain (GB). Critical to the potential for HPAI to spread between poultry premises are the connections made between farms by movements related to human activity. Movement records of catching teams and slaughterhouse vehicles were obtained from a large catching company, and these data were used in a simulation model of HPAI spread between farms serviced by the catching company, and surrounding (geographic) areas. The spread of HPAI through real-time movements was modelled, with the addition of spread via company personnel and local transmission.

Results

The model predicted that although large outbreaks are rare, they may occur, with long distances between infected premises. Final outbreak size was most sensitive to the probability of spread via slaughterhouse-linked movements whereas the probability of onward spread beyond an index premises was most sensitive to the frequency of company personnel movements.

Conclusions

Results obtained from this study show that, whilst there is the possibility that HPAI virus will jump from one cluster of farms to another, movements made by catching teams connected fewer poultry premises in an outbreak situation than slaughterhouses and company personnel. The potential connection of a large number of infected farms, however, highlights the importance of retaining up-to-date data on poultry premises so that control measures can be effectively prioritised in an outbreak situation.