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Estimation of distance related probability of animal movements between holdings and implications for disease spread modeling

Lindström, Tom, Sisson, Scott A., Nöremark, Maria, Jonsson, Annie, Wennergren, Uno
Preventive veterinary medicine 2009 v.91 no.2-4 pp. 85-94
livestock, animal diseases, disease transmission, model validation, geographical distribution, Bayesian theory, Monte Carlo method, Sweden
Between holding contacts are more common over short distances and this may have implications for the dynamics of disease spread through these contacts. A reliable estimation of how contacts depend on distance is therefore important when modeling livestock diseases. In this study, we have developed a method for analyzing distant dependent contacts and applied it to animal movement data from Sweden. The data were analyzed with two competing models. The first model assumes that contacts arise from a purely distance dependent process. The second is a mixture model and assumes that, in addition, some contacts arise independent of distance. Parameters were estimated with a Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) approach and the model probabilities were compared. We also investigated possible between model differences in predicted contact structures, using a collection of network measures. We found that the mixture model was a much better model for the data analyzed. Also, the network measures showed that the models differed considerably in predictions of contact structures, which is expected to be important for disease spread dynamics. We conclude that a model with contacts being both dependent on, and independent of, distance was preferred for modeling the example animal movement contact data.