Two separate analyses were carried out to understand the epidemiology of Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) in 2007 in North West Europe: First, the temporal change in transmission rates was compared to the evolution of temperature during that season. Second, we evaluated the spatio-temporal dynamics of newly reported outbreaks, to estimate a spatial transmission kernel. For both analyses, the approach as used before in analysing the 2006 BTV-8 epidemic had to be adapted in order to take into account the fact that the 2007 epidemic was not a newly arising epidemic, but one advancing from whereto it had already spread in 2006. We found that within the area already affected by the 2006 outbreak, the pattern of newly infected farms in 2007 cannot be explained by between-farm transmission, but rather by local re-emergence of the virus throughout that region. This indicates that persistence through winter was ubiquitous for BTV-8. Just like in 2006, we also found that the temperature at which the infection starts to spread lies close to 15 °C. Finally, we found that the shape of the transmission kernel is in line with the one from the 2006 epidemic. In conclusion, despite the substantial differences between 2006 and 2007 in temperature patterns (2006 featured a heat wave in July, whereas 2007 was more regular) and spatial epidemic extent, both the minimum temperature required for transmission and the transmission kernel were similar to those estimated for the 2006 outbreak, indicating that they are robust properties, suitable for extrapolation to other years and similar regions.
In the past decade, two pathogens transmitted by Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus, have caused serious economic losses to the European livestock industry, most notably affecting sheep and cattle. These outbreaks of arboviral disease have highlighted large knowledge gaps on the biology and ecology of indigenous Culicoides species. With these research gaps in mind, and as a means of assessing what potential disease outbreaks to expect in the future, an international workshop was held in May 2013 at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. It brought together research groups from Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and The Netherlands, with diverse backgrounds in vector ecology, epidemiology, entomology, virology, animal health, modelling, and genetics. Here, we report on the key findings of this workshop.
During the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) epidemic, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) collected data on SBV occurrence across Europe in order to provide an assessment of spread and impact. By May 2013, twenty-nine countries were reporting to EFSA and twenty-two countries had reported cases of SBV. The total number of SBV herds reported was 13,846 and the number of SBV laboratory confirmed herds was 8730. The surveillance activities were based on the detection of SBV clinical cases (either adults or newborns). Malformation in newborns was the most commonly reported clinical sign of SBV-infection. All countries were able to provide the date when the first suspicion of SBV in the herd was reported and nineteen could report the location of the herd at a regional level. This allowed the spread of SBV in Europe to be measured both temporally and spatially. The number of SBV confirmed herds started to increase in December 2011 and two peaks were observed in 2012 (February and May). Confirmed herds continued to be reported in 2012 and into 2013. An increase during winter 2012 and spring 2013 was again observed, but the number of confirmed herds was lower than in the previous year. SBV spread rapidly throughout Europe from the initial area of detection. SBV was detected above the latitude of 60° North, which exceeds the northern expansion observed during the bluetongue virus serotype 8 epidemic in 2006-2009. The impact of SBV was calculated as ratio of the number of herds with at least one malformed SBV positive foetus and the total number of herds in this region. The 75th percentile of the malformations ratio in the various affected countries for the whole reporting period was below 1% and 3% for cattle and sheep herds, respectively. International data collection on emerging diseases represents a challenge as the nature of available data, data quality and the proportion of reported cases may vary widely between affected countries. Surveillance activities on emerging animal diseases are often structured only for case detection making the estimation of infection/diseases prevalence and the investigation of risk factors difficult. The impact of the disease must be determined to allow risk managers to take appropriate decisions. Simple within-herd impact indicators suitable for emerging disease outbreaks should be defined that could be measured as part of routine animal health surveillance programmes and allow for rapid and reliable impact assessment of emerging animal health diseases.
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has swept through the major part of Europe in the period 2011-2013. A vaccine against SBV has been developed and may be a possible preventive instrument against infection. Presently, there is no data available to refute the assumption that natural SBV infection results in long-term immunity. In that respect, it is of interest to know how long (protecting) virus-neutralizing antibodies are present in naturally infected animals. New-born calves acquire passive immunity from their dams by ingestion and absorption of antibodies present in colostrum, which can block the production of serum antibodies when vaccine is administered to calves with maternally derived antibodies. In that respect, it is useful to know how long it takes for maternal antibodies against SBV to disappear in young animals born from infected dams.
Current trends in biosecurity and cybersecurity include (1) the wide availability of technology and specialized knowledge that previously were available only to governments; (2) the global economic recession, which may increase the spread of radical non-state actors; and (3) recent US and EU commission reports that reflect concerns about non-state actors in asymmetric threats. The intersectoral and international nature of bioterrorism and agroterrorism threats requires collaboration across several sectors including intelligence, police, forensics, customs, and other law enforcement organizations who must work together with public and animal health organizations as well as environmental and social science organizations. This requires coordinated decision making among these organizations, based on actionable knowledge and information sharing. The risk of not sharing information among organizations compared to the benefit of sharing information can be considered in an "information sharing risk-benefit analysis" to prevent a terrorism incident from occurring and to build a rapid response capability. In the EU project AniBioThreat, early warning is the main topic in work package 3 (WP 3). A strategy has been generated based on an iterative approach to bring law enforcement agencies and human and animal health institutes together. Workshops and exercises have taken place during the first half of the project, and spin-off activities include new preparedness plans for institutes and the formation of a legal adviser network for decision making. In addition, a seminar on actionable knowledge was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2012, which identified the need to bring various agency cultures together to work on developing a resilient capability to identify early signs of bio- and agroterrorism threats. The seminar concluded that there are a number of challenges in building a collaborative culture, including developing an education program that supports collaboration and shared situational awareness.
Agroterrorism targeting livestock can be described as the intentional introduction of an animal disease agent against livestock with the purpose of causing economic damage, disrupting socioeconomic stability of a country, and creating panic and distress. This type of terrorism can be alluring to terrorists because animal disease agents are easily available. This review addresses the vulnerabilities of the livestock industry to agroterrorism. However, we also show that early detection systems have recently been developed for agroterrorism and deliberate spread of animal pathogens in livestock, including an agroterrorism intelligence cycle, syndromic surveillance programs, and computer-based clinical decision support systems that can be used for early detection of notifiable animal diseases. The development of DIVA-vaccines in the past 10 to 15 years has created, in principle, an excellent response instrument to counter intentional animal disease outbreaks. These developments have made our animal agriculture less vulnerable to agroterrorism. But we cannot relax; there are still many challenges, in particular with respect to integration of first line of defense, law enforcement, and early detection systems for animal diseases.
To determine which species of Culicoides biting midges carry Schmallenberg virus (SBV), we assayed midges collected in the Netherlands during autumn 2011. SBV RNA was found in C. scoticus, C. obsoletus sensu stricto, and C. chiopterus. The high proportion of infected midges might explain the rapid spread of SBV throughout Europe.
Bluetongue (BT) is a vector-borne disease of ruminants caused by bluetongue virus that is transmitted by biting midges (Culicoides spp.). In 2006, the introduction of BTV serotype 8 (BTV-8) caused a severe epidemic in Western and Central Europe. The principal effective veterinary measure in response to BT was believed to be vaccination accompanied by other measures such as movement restrictions and surveillance. As the number of vaccine doses available at the start of the vaccination campaign was rather uncertain, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Dutch agricultural industry wanted to evaluate several different vaccination strategies. This study aimed to rank eight vaccination strategies based on their efficiency (i.e. net costs in relation to prevented losses or benefits) for controlling the bluetongue virus serotype 8 epidemic in 2008.
The recent bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) epidemic in Western Europe struck hard. Controlling the infection was difficult and a good and safe vaccine was not available until the spring of 2008. Little was known regarding BTV transmission in Western Europe or the efficacy of control measures. Quantitative details on transmission are essential to assess the potential and efficacy of such measures.To quantify virus transmission between herds, a temporal and a spatio-temporal analysis were applied to data on reported infected herds in 2006. We calculated the basic reproduction number between herds (Rh: expected number of new infections, generated by one initial infected herd in a susceptible environment). It was found to be of the same order of magnitude as that of an infection with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in The Netherlands, e.g. around 4. We concluded that an average day temperature of at least 15 °C is required for BTV-8 transmission between herds in Western Europe. A few degrees increase in temperature is found to lead to a major increase in BTV-8 transmission.We also found that the applied disease control (spatial zones based on 20 km radius restricting animal transport to outside regions) led to a spatial transmission pattern of BTV-8, with 85% of transmission restricted to a 20 km range. This 20 km equals the scale of the protection zones. We concluded that free animal movement led to substantial faster spread of the BTV-8 epidemic over space as compared to a situation with animal movement restrictions.
In the Spring of 2009, a veterinarian reported suspected classical swine fever (CSF) on a multiplier pig farm in the southern part of The Netherlands (close to the Belgian border). Over a 5-week period there had been a number of sick sows and an excessively high percentage of stillborn and preterm piglets. Sick animals were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, but did not respond as well as anticipated. A visiting specialist team from the Food Safety Authority could not exclude CSF as the cause of the clinical problems and sent blood samples to the reference laboratory in Lelystad for a PCR test on CSF antigen. Fortunately, test results obtained 6 hours later were negative for CSF, and the disease control measures were lifted. It later appeared that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRSV) might have been responsible for the problems. But what if CSF had caused the clinical problems? A CSF-transmission model was used to simulate CSF outbreaks dependent on the duration of the high-risk period (HRP). As the duration of the HRP increased, there was an exponential growth in the number of pig farms infected during this period. Simulations also showed that with a longer HRP, the virus spread over greater distances from the source herd. It was also investigated whether a possible CSF outbreak could be detected on the basis of an increased mortality and hence increased number of cadavers sent to a rendering plant. However, the calculated mortality incidence was not sensitive enough to serve as an alarm signal. It is recommended that CSF-exclusion diagnostics be used much earlier in similar clinical situations on pig farms.
Emergency vaccination is an effective control strategy for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) epidemics in densely populated livestock areas, but results in a six-month waiting period before exports can be resumed, incurring severe economic consequences for pig exporting countries. In the European Union, a one-month waiting period has been discussed based on negative test results in a final screening. The objective of this study was to analyze the risk of exporting FMD-infected pig carcasses from a vaccinated area: (1) directly after final screening and (2) after a six-month waiting period. A risk model has been developed to estimate the probability that a processed carcass was derived from an FMD-infected pig (P(carc)). Key variables were herd prevalence (P(H)), within-herd prevalence (P(A)), and the probability of detection at slaughter (P(SL)). P(H) and P(A) were estimated using Bayesian inference under the assumption that, despite all negative test results, > or =1 infected pigs were present. Model calculations indicated that P(carc) was on average 2.0 x 10(-5) directly after final screening, and 1.7 x 10(-5) after a six-month waiting period. Therefore, the additional waiting time did not substantially reduce P(carc). The estimated values were worst-case scenarios because only viraemic pigs pose a risk for disease transmission, while seropositive pigs do not. The risk of exporting FMD via pig carcasses from a vaccinated area can further be reduced by heat treatment of pork and/or by excluding high-risk pork products from export.
A major epidemic of bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) occurred in Western Europe in 2006. During 2007 it became evident that BTV-8 had survived the winter and a re-emerging epidemic quickly developed. The objective of this study was to describe the severity and clinical impact of the BTV-8 epidemic in 2007 in The Netherlands in laboratory-confirmed outbreaks and to compare this with the situation in 2006. The relative frequency of clinical signs in BTV-8 affected sheep flocks and cattle herds in 2007 and 2006 was similar. The most prominent changes were a higher proportion of sheep flocks with lameness and a much higher proportion of cattle herds reporting a decrease in milk yield in 2007. BTV-8 associated morbidity and mortality incidence rates in sheep flocks and cattle herds were significantly (P<0.001) higher in 2007 than in 2006. Both in sheep flocks and cattle herds, BTV-8 associated case fatality was significantly (P<0.001) lower in 2007, which was probably due to better medical treatment of sick animals. There were significantly (P<0.001) more fertility problems associated with BTV-8 infection in outbreak cattle herds in 2007 compared to 2006.
Estimates of the per-contact probability of transmission between farms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus of H7N7 subtype during the 2003 epidemic in the Netherlands are important for the design of better control and biosecurity strategies. We used standardized data collected during the epidemic and a model to extract data for untraced contacts based on the daily number of infectious farms within a given distance of a susceptible farm. With these data, we used a maximum likelihood estimation approach to estimate the transmission probabilities by the individual contact types, both traced and untraced. The estimated conditional probabilities, conditional on the contact originating from an infectious farm, of virus transmission were: 0.000057 per infectious farm within 1 km per day, 0.000413 per infectious farm between 1 and 3 km per day, 0.0000895 per infectious farm between 3 and 10 km per day, 0.0011 per crisis organisation contact, 0.0414 per feed delivery contact, 0.308 per egg transport contact, 0.133 per other-professional contact and, 0.246 per rendering contact. We validate these outcomes against literature data on virus genetic sequences for outbreak farms. These estimates can be used to inform further studies on the role that improved biosecurity between contacts and/or contact frequency reduction can play in eliminating between-farm spread of the virus during future epidemics. The findings also highlight the need to; 1) understand the routes underlying the infections without traced contacts and, 2) to review whether the contact-tracing protocol is exhaustive in relation to all the farms day-to-day activities and practices.
Infections with Schmallenberg virus (SBV) are associated with congenital malformations in ruminants. Because reporting of suspected cases only could underestimate the true rate of infection, we conducted a seroprevalence study in the Netherlands to detect past exposure to SBV among dairy cattle. A total of 1,123 serum samples collected from cattle during November 2011-January 2012 were tested for antibodies against SBV by using a virus neutralization test; seroprevalence was 72.5%. Seroprevalence was significantly higher in the central-eastern part of the Netherlands than in the northern and southern regions (p<0.001). In addition, high (70%-100%) within-herd seroprevalence was observed in 2 SBV-infected dairy herds and 2 SBV-infected sheep herds. No significant differences were found in age-specific prevalence of antibodies against SBV, which is an indication that SBV is newly arrived in the country.
As low pathogenic avian influenza viruses can mutate into high pathogenic viruses the Dutch poultry sector implemented a surveillance system for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) based on blood samples. It has been suggested that egg yolk samples could be sampled instead of blood samples to survey egg layer farms. To support future decision making about AI surveillance economic criteria are important. Therefore a cost analysis is performed on systems that use either blood or eggs as sampled material.
Experience with recent large-scale epidemics of Classical Swine Fever and Avian Influenza--among others in the Netherlands--have teached us several lessons that should prepare us better for future outbreaks. Among others, improving early detection of outbreaks--by using syndrome surveillance systems--is a key factor, in which farmers and veterinary practitioners have an imminent role. A major step in this respect is facilitation of the use of exclusion diagnostics without closing down the farm in clinical situations with non-specific clinical signs observed in sick animals. The hesitance of farmers and veterinary practitioners to report a suspect clinical situation on a livestock farm and how to facilitate that process is another major issue. Furthermore, the importance of communication between the field and the laboratory with respect to post mortem examination will be highlighted, and the need for outbreak simulation exercises with neighbouring countries in order to be better prepared, will be discussed.
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