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Statistical analysis code for output from a model used to simulate foot-and-mouth disease dynamics in the United Kingdom


Seibel, Rachel et al. (2021), Statistical analysis code for output from a model used to simulate foot-and-mouth disease dynamics in the United Kingdom, Dryad, Dataset,


Epidemics can sometimes be managed through reductions of host density, such as social distancing for human diseases, reducing plant density through cultural and genetic means, and host culling for epizootics. These approaches allow for a certain density of hosts to remain within a targeted area. By contrast, total ring depopulation is often used as a management strategy for emerging infectious diseases in livestock. In this study, we explore the trade-offs of a density-based culling strategy to determine if fewer livestock farms can be culled within rings while maintaining a decrease in disease transmission. To do so, we evaluated a farm-density-based ring culling strategy to control foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United Kingdom. This strategy may allow for some farms within rings around infected premises (IPs) to escape depopulation, with the aim to prevent over-culling during outbreaks. Using a spatially-explicit, stochastic, state-transition simulation algorithm originally developed by Keeling et al. 2001 to model FMD spread in the United Kingdom, we simulated this reduced-farm-density, or “target density” strategy. We modeled FMD disease spread in four counties in the UK (Aberdeenshire, Cumbria, Devon, and North Yorkshire) that have different farm demographies. We ran 740,000 simulations in a full-factorial analysis of epidemic impact measurements (i.e. culled animals, culled farms, epidemic length) and cull strategy parameters (i.e. target farm density, daily farm cull capacity, cull radius). We found that all of the cull strategy parameters were drivers of epidemic impact. We found that outbreaks in Cumbria had higher epidemic impacts and were more likely to take off compared with other counties with more outbreaks being likely to take off in Cumbria. Most importantly, in all counties, our proposed target density strategy was more effective at combatting FMD compared with traditional ‘total ring depopulation’ when considering average culled animals and culled farms. The differences in epidemic impact between the counties are likely driven by farm demography, especially differences in cattle and farm density. This target density strategy can be applied to many different systems, including other livestock and agricultural systems, to reduce host density as opposed to over-culling hosts.


National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: 2015-67013-23818