Reaching farmers with information is important when eradicating outbreaks of contagious diseases, the actions they take related to contacts and biosecurity, as well as early notification of disease can have a significant effect on limiting the spread of disease. The aim of this study was to investigate Swedish pig farmers' disease awareness, information retrieval and if they change their biosecurity routines during an outbreak of an exotic infectious disease, using the experience from the first outbreak of PRRS in Sweden in 2007. Data were collected through a questionnaire to 153 farmers. Our findings indicate that written information which was sent to all farmers was not sufficient. Herd size, as an indicator for the type of farmer, was significantly associated with awareness. Farmers with medium or large herds were more aware there had been an outbreak (OR 32.3, p=0.001), of the means of spread and the signs of disease, and they were more active in information search compared to farmers with small herds. Closeness to the outbreak was important for motivating farmers to actively search for information. The results from this study could be useful when planning information campaigns during future outbreaks and when modelling disease outbreaks.
In the design of surveillance, there is often a desire to target high risk herds. Such risk-based approaches result in better allocation of resources and improve the performance of surveillance activities. For many contagious animal diseases, movement of live animals is a main route of transmission, and because of this, herds that purchase many live animals or have a large contact network due to trade can be seen as a high risk stratum of the population. This paper presents a new method to assess herd disease risk in animal movement networks. It is an improvement to current network measures that takes direction, temporal order, and also movement size and probability of disease into account. In the study, the method was used to calculate a probability of disease ratio (PDR) of herds in simulated datasets, and of real herds based on animal movement data from dairy herds included in a bulk milk survey for Coxiella burnetii. Known differences in probability of disease are easily incorporated in the calculations and the PDR was calculated while accounting for regional differences in probability of disease, and also by applying equal probability of disease throughout the population. Each herd's increased probability of disease due to purchase of animals was compared to both the average herd and herds within the same risk stratum. The results show that the PDR is able to capture the different circumstances related to disease prevalence and animal trade contact patterns. Comparison of results based on inclusion or exclusion of differences in risk also highlights how ignoring such differences can influence the ability to correctly identify high risk herds. The method shows a potential to be useful for risk-based surveillance, in the classification of herds in control programmes or to represent influential contacts in risk factor studies.
On-farm biosecurity is an important part of disease prevention and control, this applies to live animal contacts as well as indirect contacts e.g. via professionals visiting farms in their work. The objectives of this study were to investigate how professionals visiting animal farms in Sweden in their daily work perceive the on-farm conditions for biosecurity, the factors that influence their own biosecurity routines and what they describe as obstacles for biosecurity. Suggestions for improvements were also asked for. Questionnaires were distributed to professionals visiting farms in their daily work; veterinarians, livestock hauliers, artificial insemination technicians, animal welfare inspectors and cattle hoof trimmers. The sample was a convenience sample, based on accessibility to registers or collaboration with organisations distributing the questionnaire. Respondents were asked about the availability of certain biosecurity conditions related to farm visits, e.g. if facilities for hand washing were available, how important different factors were for their own routines and, through open ended questions, to describe obstacles and suggestions for improvement.
After data cleaning, there were responses from 368 persons. There was a difference in the proportion of visited farms reported to have certain biosecurity measures in place related to animal species present on the farm. In general, visited pig farms had a higher proportion of biosecurity measures in place, whereas the conditions were poorer on sheep and goat farms and horse farms. There were also differences between the visitor categories; the perceived conditions for biosecurity varied between the groups, e.g. livestock hauliers did not have access to hand washing facilities as often as veterinarians did. In all groups, a majority of the respondents perceived obstacles for on-farm biosecurity, among veterinarians 66% perceived that there were obstacles. Many of the reported obstacles related to the very basics of biosecurity, such as access to soap and water. Responsibility was identified to be a key issue; while some farmers expect visitors to take responsibility for keeping up biosecurity they do not provide the adequate on-farm conditions.
Many of the respondents reported obstacles for keeping good biosecurity related to on-farm conditions. There was a gap when it came to responsibility which needs to be clarified. Visitors need to take responsibility for avoiding spread of disease, while farmers need to assume responsibility for providing adequate conditions for on-farm biosecurity.
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Infectious diseases of livestock have negative consequences for animal production as well as animal health and welfare and can be transmitted between farms via direct (live animal movements) as well as indirect (via physical vectors such as, people, transport vehicles and fomites) contacts. The objective of the study was to examine the travel patterns of professionals visiting Swedish farms (veterinarians, milk tanker drivers, artificial inseminators, maintenance technicians and livestock hauliers). This was done by obtaining records of the farms visited by a sample of professionals in the above categories in one week in January, one week in April, one week in July and one week in October in the Swedish counties Västerbotten, Södermanland, Västergötland and Skåne.
There were twelve participating organisations, and data was provided for one to three individuals/vehicles/veterinary practices per professional category and per geographic region (except for dairy service technicians and livestock hauliers who did not provide data from all regions). There was a trend towards larger areas covered and smaller number of farms visited per week in the north, but exceptions occurred and there were regional variations. Generally, the greatest areas were travelled by milk tankers and livestock hauliers, and the profession travelling over the smallest areas tended to be the veterinarians. Milk tankers visited most farms per week, one milk tanker could visit between 23 and 90 farms per week and travel over areas between 717 km² and 23,512 km² per week.
Valuable insight into the travel patterns of Swedish professionals has emerged although the implications of the study largely concern highly infectious diseases. Movement of live animals pose the greatest risk for the spread of infectious animal diseases; however indirect contacts are important for many diseases. The results of this study indicate that in Sweden a highly contagious disease might spread over a large area in the time span of one incubation period, which ought to be kept in mind in case of an outbreak and in outbreak investigations. The difficulties in contacting some professionals visiting farms could be a problem in an outbreak situation.
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In addition to livestock movements, other between-farm contacts such as visitors may contribute to the spread of contagious animal diseases. Knowledge about such contacts is essential for contingency planning. Preventive measures, risk-based surveillance and contact tracing may be facilitated if the frequency and type of between-farm contacts can be assessed for different types of farms. The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency and types of visitors on farms with cloven-hoofed animals in Sweden and to analyse whether there were differences in the number of visitors attributable to region, season, and type of herd. Data were collected from Swedish farmers through contact-logs covering two-week periods during four different seasons.
In total, 482 (32%) farmers filled in the contact log for at least one period and the data represent 18,416 days. The average number of professional and non-professional visitors per day was 0.3 and 0.8, respectively. Whereas the number of professional visitors seemed to increase with increasing herd size, this relation was not seen for non-professional visits. The mean numbers of visitors per day were highest in the summer and in the farm category 'small mixed farm'. Reports of the visitors' degree of contact with the animals showed that veterinarians, AI-technicians, animal transporters and neighbours were often in direct contact with the animals or entered the stables and 8.8% of the repairmen were also in direct contact with animals, which was unexpected. In a multivariable analysis, species, herd size and season were significantly associated with the number of professional visitors as well as the number of visitors in direct contact with the animals.
In conclusion there was a large variation between farms in the number and type of contacts. The number of visitors that may be more likely to spread diseases between farms was associated with animal species and herd size.
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