BACKGROUND: In the recent past, the introduction of Classical Swine Fever Virus (CSFV) followed by between-herd spread has given rise to a number of large epidemics in The Netherlands and Belgium. Both these countries are pork-exporting countries. Particularly important in these epidemics has been the occurrence of substantial "neighborhood transmission" from herd to herd in the presence of base-line control measures prescribed by EU legislation. Here we propose a calculation procedure to map out "high-risk areas" for local between-herd spread of CSFV as a tool to support decision making on prevention and control of CSFV outbreaks. In this procedure the identification of such areas is based on an estimated inter-herd distance dependent probability of neighborhood transmission or "local transmission". Using this distance-dependent probability, we derive a threshold value for the local density of herds. In areas with local herd density above threshold, local transmission alone can already lead to epidemic spread, whereas in below-threshold areas this is not the case. The first type of area is termed 'high-risk' for spread of CSFV, while the latter type is termed 'low-risk'.
RESULTS: As we show for the case of The Netherlands, once the distance-dependent probability of local transmission has been estimated from CSFV outbreak data, it is possible to produce a map of the country in which areas of high-risk herds and of low-risk herds are identified. We made these maps even more informative by estimating border zones between the two types of areas. In these border zones the risk of local transmission of infection to a nearby high-risk area exceeds a certain level.
CONCLUSION: The risk maps provide an easily understandable visualization of the spatial heterogeneities in transmission risk. They serve as a tool for area-specific designs of control strategies, and possibly also for spatial planning of areas where livestock farming is allowed. Similar risk maps can in principle be constructed for other highly-transmissible livestock infections that spread via neighborhood transmission.
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