Analysis of Swine Movement in Four Canadian Regions: Network Structure and Implications for Disease Spread

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Abstract

Summary

Direct and indirect contacts among animal holdings are important in the spread of infectious diseases. The objectives of this study were to describe networks of pig movements and the sharing of trucks used for those movements between swine farms in four Canadian regions using network analysis tools and to obtain contact parameters for infectious disease spread simulation models. Four months of swine movement data from a pilot pig traceability programme were used. Two types of networks were created using three time scales (weekly, monthly and the full study period): one-mode networks of farm-to-farm direct contact representing animal shipments and two-mode networks representing the sharing of trucks between farms. Contact patterns among farms were described by estimating a range of relevant network measures. The overall network neglecting the four regions consisted of 145 farms, which were connected by 261 distinct links. A total of 184 trucks were used to transport 2043 shipments of pigs during the study period. The median in- and out-degree for the overall one-mode network was 1 and ranged from 0 to 26 and 0 to 10, respectively. The overall one-mode network had heterogeneous degree distribution, a high clustering coefficient and shorter average path length than would be expected for randomly generated networks of similar size. On average one truck was shared by four farms in the overall network, or by three farms when considered the monthly and weekly networks. Degree distribution of the two-mode overall network demonstrated characteristics of power-law distribution. For more than 50% of shipments on any given day, the same truck was used for at least one other shipment. Findings from this study are in agreement with previous work, which suggested that swine movement networks exhibit small-world and scale-free topologies. Furthermore, trucks used for the shipment of pigs can play an important role in connecting otherwise unconnected farms and may increase the spread of disease.

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