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Weekly Overview: Animal Disease Spread Shown Using Social Network Analysis

7 February 2017, at 6:00am

GLOBAL - Researchers have shown that looking at movements of operators and vehicles between farms in the same way we look at contacts in social networks can help explain the spread of dangerous infectious diseases of livestock, such as foot-and-mouth disease.

The study, produced by Dr Gianluigi Rossi and colleagues from the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna, have shown that the network of contacts originated from on-farm visits by veterinarians in dairy farms of Northern Italy displays hidden features that cannot be detected by simply looking at the frequency of visits and unveils patterns of infection otherwise unexplained.

The authors discovered that veterinarians' movements produce an unexpectedly large number of potentially infectious contacts between farms that can quickly spread dangerous livestock diseases.

The research, made possible by the availability of high-resolution data in space and time on veterinarian movements in the study area, shed light on the actual significance of operator movements in disease spread, a still poorly understood topic due to the highly diverse and complex nature of such movements and to privacy issues in data collection.

It is hoped that the research can contribute to the development of more accurate tools for predicting the spread of livestock diseases and may help implement more effective biosecurity measures in farms.

In other news, a new Taskforce has been launched in the Netherlands to try and prevent and reduce food waste.

An initiative by Wageningen University & Research, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Sustainable Food Alliance, the Taskforce Circular Economy in Food will connect initiatives against food waste.

The Taskforce is currently composed of 25 members from the entire food supply chain, from SMEs to food multinationals, and supplemented with members from public and societal organisations.

The organisations committed to the Taskforce noted that the initiatives in the Netherlands are currently fragmented and that they must be connected to implement tangible impactful changes.

In the second half of 2017, the Taskforce will publish a national strategy and roadmap to collectively achieve a circular economy in food: an economy in which waste does not exist, agrifood residual streams are re-used in the best possible way, and raw materials retain their value.

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