Controlling viral outbreaks: Quantitative strategies

Anna Mummert, Howard Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Preparing for and responding to outbreaks of serious livestock infectious diseases are critical measures to safeguard animal health, public health, and food supply. Almost all of the current control strategies are empirical, and mass culling or "stamping out" is frequently the principal strategy for controlling epidemics. However, there are ethical, ecological, and economic reasons to consider less drastic control strategies. Here we use modeling to quantitatively study the efficacy of different control measures for viral outbreaks, where the infectiousness, transmissibility and death rate of animals commonly depends on their viral load. We develop a broad theoretical framework for exploring and understanding this heterogeneity. The model includes both direct transmission from infectious animals and indirect transmission from an environmental reservoir. We then incorporate a large variety of control measures, including vaccination, antivirals, isolation, environmental disinfection, and several forms of culling, which may result in fewer culled animals. We provide explicit formulae for the basic reproduction number, R0, for each intervention and for combinations. We evaluate the control methods for a realistic simulated outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza on a mid-sized turkey farm. In this simulated outbreak, culling results in more total dead birds and dramatically more when culling all of the infected birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0171199
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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