Estimating the introduction time of highly pathogenic avian influenza into poultry flocks

Hobbelen, Peter H.F.; Elbers, Armin R.W.; Werkman, Marleen; Koch, Guus; Velkers, Francisca C.; Stegeman, Arjan; Hagenaars, Thomas J.


The estimation of farm-specific time windows for the introduction of highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus can be used to increase the efficiency of disease control measures such as contact tracing and may help to identify risk factors for virus introduction. The aims of this research are to (1) develop and test an accurate approach for estimating farm-specific virus introduction windows and (2) evaluate this approach by applying it to 11 outbreaks of HPAI (H5N8) on Dutch commercial poultry farms during the years 2014 and 2016. We used a stochastic simulation model with susceptible, infectious and recovered/removed disease stages to generate distributions for the period from virus introduction to detection. The model was parameterized using data from the literature, except for the within-flock transmission rate, which was estimated from disease-induced mortality data using two newly developed methods that describe HPAI outbreaks using either a deterministic model (A) or a stochastic approach (B). Model testing using simulated outbreaks showed that both method A and B performed well. Application to field data showed that method A could be successfully applied to 8 out of 11 HPAI H5N8 outbreaks and is the most generally applicable one, when data on disease-induced mortality is scarce.