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1.  Evaluation of the risk factors contributing to the African swine fever occurrence in Sardinia, Italy 
This study assesses the relation between hypothesized risk factors and African swine fever virus (ASFV) distribution in Sardinia (Italy) after the beginning of the eradication program in 1993, using a Bayesian multivariable logistic regression mixed model. Results indicate that the probability of ASFV occurrence in Sardinia was associated to particular socio-cultural, productive and economical factors found in the region, particularly to large number of confined (i.e., closed) farms (most of them backyard), high road density, high mean altitude, large number of open fattening farms, and large number of pigs per commune. Conversely, large proportion of open farms with at least one census and large proportion of open farms per commune, were found to be protective factors for ASFV. Results suggest that basic preventive and control strategies, such as yearly census or registration of the pigs per farm and better control of the public lands where pigs are usually raised, together with endanced effords of outreach and communication with pig producers should help in the success of the eradication program for ASF in the Island. Methods and results presented here will inform decision making to better control and eradicate ASF in Sardinia and in all those areas with similar management and epidemiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC4396450  PMID: 25926829
Bayesian model; risk-based surveillance; eradication program; spatial epidemiology; backyard pigs
2.  Modular framework to assess the risk of African swine fever virus entry into the European Union 
BMC Veterinary Research  2014;10:145.
The recent occurrence and spread of African swine fever (ASF) in Eastern Europe is perceived as a serious risk for the pig industry in the European Union (EU). In order to estimate the potential risk of ASF virus (ASFV) entering the EU, several pathways of introduction were previously assessed separately. The present work aimed to integrate five of these assessments (legal imports of pigs, legal imports of products, illegal imports of products, fomites associated with transport and wild boar movements) into a modular tool that facilitates the visualization and comprehension of the relative risk of ASFV introduction into the EU by each analyzed pathway.
The framework’s results indicate that 48% of EU countries are at relatively high risk (risk score 4 or 5 out of 5) for ASFV entry for at least one analyzed pathway. Four of these countries obtained the maximum risk score for one pathway: Bulgaria for legally imported products during the high risk period (HRP); Finland for wild boar; Slovenia and Sweden for legally imported pigs during the HRP. Distribution of risk considerably differed from one pathway to another; for some pathways, the risk was concentrated in a few countries (e.g., transport fomites), whereas other pathways incurred a high risk for 4 or 5 countries (legal pigs, illegal imports and wild boar).
The modular framework, developed to estimate the risk of ASFV entry into the EU, is available in a public domain, and is a transparent, easy-to-interpret tool that can be updated and adapted if required. The model’s results determine the EU countries at higher risk for each ASFV introduction route, and provide a useful basis to develop a global coordinated program to improve ASFV prevention in the EU.
PMCID: PMC4112856  PMID: 24992824
African swine fever; Emerging disease; Introduction; European Union; Pigs; Risk assessment; Semi-quantitative framework; Transboundary disease
3.  Identification of Hotspots in the European Union for the Introduction of Four Zoonotic Arboviroses by Live Animal Trade 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70000.
Live animal trade is considered a major mode of introduction of viruses from enzootic foci into disease-free areas. Due to societal and behavioural changes, some wild animal species may nowadays be considered as pet species. The species diversity of animals involved in international trade is thus increasing. This could benefit pathogens that have a broad host range such as arboviruses. The objective of this study was to analyze the risk posed by live animal imports for the introduction, in the European Union (EU), of four arboviruses that affect human and horses: Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis. Importation data for a five-years period (2005-2009, extracted from the EU TRACES database), environmental data (used as a proxy for the presence of vectors) and horses and human population density data (impacting the occurrence of clinical cases) were combined to derive spatially explicit risk indicators for virus introduction and for the potential consequences of such introductions. Results showed the existence of hotspots where the introduction risk was the highest in Belgium, in the Netherlands and in the north of Italy. This risk was higher for Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) than for the three other diseases. It was mainly attributed to exotic pet species such as rodents, reptiles or cage birds, imported in small-sized containments from a wide variety of geographic origins. The increasing species and origin diversity of these animals may have in the future a strong impact on the risk of introduction of arboviruses in the EU.
PMCID: PMC3720944  PMID: 23894573
4.  Introduction of African Swine Fever into the European Union through Illegal Importation of Pork and Pork Products 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61104.
Transboundary animal diseases can have very severe socio-economic impacts when introduced into new regions. The history of disease incursions into the European Union suggests that initial outbreaks were often initiated by illegal importation of meat and derived products. The European Union would benefit from decision-support tools to evaluate the risk of disease introduction caused by illegal imports in order to inform its surveillance strategy. However, due to the difficulty in quantifying illegal movements of animal products, very few studies of this type have been conducted. Using African swine fever as an example, this work presents a novel risk assessment framework for disease introduction into the European Union through illegal importation of meat and products. It uses a semi-quantitative approach based on factors that likely influence the likelihood of release of contaminated smuggled meat and products, and subsequent exposure of the susceptible population. The results suggest that the European Union is at non-negligible risk of African swine fever introduction through illegal importation of pork and products. On a relative risk scale with six categories from negligible to very high, five European Union countries were estimated at high (France, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom) or moderate (Spain) risk of African swine fever release, five countries were at high risk of exposure if African swine fever were released (France, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain) and ten countries had a moderate exposure risk (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and United Kingdom). The approach presented here and results obtained for African swine fever provide a basis for the enhancement of risk-based surveillance systems and disease prevention programmes in the European Union.
PMCID: PMC3627463  PMID: 23613795
5.  A Bayesian approach to study the risk variables for tuberculosis occurrence in domestic and wild ungulates in South Central Spain 
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic infectious disease mainly caused by Mycobacterium bovis. Although eradication is a priority for the European authorities, bTB remains active or even increasing in many countries, causing significant economic losses. The integral consideration of epidemiological factors is crucial to more cost-effectively allocate control measures. The aim of this study was to identify the nature and extent of the association between TB distribution and a list of potential risk factors regarding cattle, wild ungulates and environmental aspects in Ciudad Real, a Spanish province with one of the highest TB herd prevalences.
We used a Bayesian mixed effects multivariable logistic regression model to predict TB occurrence in either domestic or wild mammals per municipality in 2007 by using information from the previous year. The municipal TB distribution and endemicity was clustered in the western part of the region and clearly overlapped with the explanatory variables identified in the final model: (1) incident cattle farms, (2) number of years of veterinary inspection of big game hunting events, (3) prevalence in wild boar, (4) number of sampled cattle, (5) persistent bTB-infected cattle farms, (6) prevalence in red deer, (7) proportion of beef farms, and (8) farms devoted to bullfighting cattle.
The combination of these eight variables in the final model highlights the importance of the persistence of the infection in the hosts, surveillance efforts and some cattle management choices in the circulation of M. bovis in the region. The spatial distribution of these variables, together with particular Mediterranean features that favour the wildlife-livestock interface may explain the M. bovis persistence in this region. Sanitary authorities should allocate efforts towards specific areas and epidemiological situations where the wildlife-livestock interface seems to critically hamper the definitive bTB eradication success.
PMCID: PMC3483254  PMID: 22931852
6.  Risk of African swine fever introduction into the European Union through transport-associated routes: returning trucks and waste from international ships and planes 
The uncontrolled presence of African swine fever (ASF) in Russian Federation (RF) poses a serious risk to the whole European Union (EU) pig industry. Although trade of pigs and their products is banned since the official notification in June 2007, the potential introduction of ASF virus (ASFV) may occur by other routes, which are very frequent in ASF, and more difficult to control, such as contaminated waste or infected vehicles. This study was intended to estimate the risk of ASFV introduction into the EU through three types of transport routes: returning trucks, waste from international ships and waste from international planes, which will be referred here as transport-associated routes (TAR). Since no detailed and official information was available for these routes, a semi-quantitative model based on the weighted combination of risk factors was developed to estimate the risk of ASFV introduction by TAR. Relative weights for combination of different risk factors as well as validation of the model results were obtained by an expert opinion elicitation.
Model results indicate that the relative risk for ASFV introduction through TAR in most of the EU countries (16) is low, although some countries, specifically Poland and Lithuania, concentrate high levels of risk, the returning trucks route being the analyzed TAR that currently poses the highest risk for ASFV introduction into the EU. The spatial distribution of the risk of ASFV introduction varies importantly between the analyzed introduction routes. Results also highlight the need to increase the awareness and precautions for ASF prevention, particularly ensuring truck disinfection, to minimize the potential risk of entrance into the EU.
This study presents the first assessment of ASF introduction into the EU through TAR. The innovative model developed here could be used in data scarce situations for estimating the relative risk associated to each EU country. This simple methodology provides a rapid and easy to interpret results on risk that may be used for a target and cost-effective allocation of resources to prevent disease introduction.
PMCID: PMC3485109  PMID: 22935221
African swine fever; Risk assessment; Transport; Trucks; Waste disposal

Results 1-6 (6)