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Foot And Mouth Disease Outbreak Model Takes Shape

Researchers are developing a model of how an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease could spread through Australia's cattle herd. Image credit - Frank Filippi, CSIRO.
by Staff Writers
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Aug 22, 2008
Developed by CSIRO in collaboration with the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and Meat and Livestock Australia, the model combines data on several other countries' experience of FMD outbreaks with actual animal movements within Australia to create a realistic population epidemiology.

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research scientist Dr David Miron said the animal movements are derived from the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database.

"The NLIS data set contains approximately 20 million individual cattle movements so, to model it, we used a Massive Agent Based Modelling approach that is grounded in Complex Systems Science.

"Such modelling is only possible through the use of modern computing algorithms and high performance computers," he said.

"The model uses real individual animal movement data and simulates approximately ten million cattle, where every individual animal has an FMD natural history.

"Epidemiological know-how was provided by Dr Graeme Garner from DAFF where there is much enthusiasm about what has been achieved. This will complement existing regional modelling initiatives and significantly enhance Australia's contingency planning for exotic diseases.

"The model will enable various scenarios to be explored including control strategies and impacts of vaccination; and also determine where there are research gaps, which together will improve our ability to prepare for and manage such threats," Dr Miron said.

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