“All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George Box)
Controlling the emergence, spread, and persistence of infectious animal pathogens is a significant challenge in our increasingly interconnected world where humans and domestic animals are moving more frequently over longer distances and changes in land-use patterns are placing them in closer contact with wildlife populations. Climate change and pollution are also altering the natural environment to create conditions that favour pathogen transmission. This not only impacts animal health, welfare, and production, but also threatens public health when the diseases are zoonotic as illustrated by the global health crisis of COVID-19.
To better understand how infectious diseases spread through populations and what we can do to control them, we have become increasingly reliant on the predictive outputs from phenomenological and mechanistic models, either numerical or more formal. These methods require researchers to integrate available knowledge on biological systems with often sparse and heterogeneous observation data to address a wide range of scenarios at different scales (within-host, within-population, territorial). Despite recent advances in computer science as wells as expansions to our epidemiological toolkit, there are still many methodological barriers to creating robust integrative models across scales and outputs that are accurate and useful enough to make informed disease control decisions. In particular, there is increasing recognition that economic, social, and political factors can have a significant influence on how individuals behave in response to disease threats especially in situations where the diseases are unregulated.
Researchers are rising to the challenge of innovating new modelling approaches to support the management of infectious diseases that have significant impacts on animal, human, and environmental health. The Modelling in Animal Health 2nd (ModAH²) international conference brought scientists from all over the world together to promote the percolation of ideas, approaches, and methods, and to share major scientific results in this field at the crossroads of several disciplines including veterinary epidemiology, applied mathematics, computer science, and statistics. The objective of this Special Series in Veterinary Research is to provide extended coverage of up-to-date research related to modelling in animal health based on the conference presentations.
Edited by Dr Pauline Ezanno, Dr Carolyn Gates, Dr Elisabeta Vergu and Dr Stefan Widgren.
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