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1.  Comparison of covariate adjustment methods using space-time scan statistics for food animal syndromic surveillance 
Abattoir condemnation data show promise as a rich source of data for syndromic surveillance of both animal and zoonotic diseases. However, inherent characteristics of abattoir condemnation data can bias results from space-time cluster detection methods for disease surveillance, and may need to be accounted for using various adjustment methods. The objective of this study was to compare the space-time scan statistics with different abilities to control for covariates and to assess their suitability for food animal syndromic surveillance. Four space-time scan statistic models were used including: animal class adjusted Poisson, space-time permutation, multi-level model adjusted Poisson, and a weighted normal scan statistic using model residuals. The scan statistics were applied to monthly bovine pneumonic lung and “parasitic liver” condemnation data from Ontario provincial abattoirs from 2001–2007.
The number and space-time characteristics of identified clusters often varied between space-time scan tests for both “parasitic liver” and pneumonic lung condemnation data. While there were some similarities between isolated clusters in space, time and/or space-time, overall the results from space-time scan statistics differed substantially depending on the covariate adjustment approach used.
Variability in results among methods suggests that caution should be used in selecting space-time scan methods for abattoir surveillance. Furthermore, validation of different approaches with simulated or real outbreaks is required before conclusive decisions can be made concerning the best approach for conducting surveillance with these data.
PMCID: PMC3842647  PMID: 24246040
Scan statistic; Syndromic surveillance; Abattoir; Condemnations
2.  Comparison of the geographical distribution of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus infections in the United States of America (2000–2011) 
Although feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) have similar risk factors and control measures, infection rates have been speculated to vary in geographic distribution over North America. Since both infections are endemic in North America, it was assumed as a working hypothesis that their geographic distributions were similar. Hence, the purpose of this exploratory analysis was to investigate the comparative geographical distribution of both viral infections. Counts of FIV (n=17,108) and FeLV (n=30,017) positive serology results (FIV antibody and FeLV ELISA) were obtained for 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia of the United States of America (US) from the IDEXX Laboratories website. The proportional morbidity ratio of FIV to FeLV infection was estimated for each administrative region and its geographic distribution pattern was visualized by a choropleth map. Statistical evidence of an excess in the proportional morbidity ratio from unity was assessed using the spatial scan test under the normal probability model.
This study revealed distinct spatial distribution patterns in the proportional morbidity ratio suggesting the presence of one or more relevant and geographically varying risk factors. The disease map indicates that there is a higher prevalence of FIV infections in the southern and eastern US compared to FeLV. In contrast, FeLV infections were observed to be more frequent in the western US compared to FIV. The respective excess in proportional morbidity ratio was significant with respect to the spatial scan test (p < 0.05).
The observed variability in the geographical distribution of the proportional morbidity ratio of FIV to FeLV may be related to the presence of an additional or unique, but yet unknown, spatial risk factor. Putative factors may be geographic variations in specific virus strains and rate of vaccination. Knowledge of these factors and the geographical distributions of these infections can inform recommendations for testing, management and prevention. However, further studies are required to investigate the potential association of these factors with FIV and FeLV.
PMCID: PMC3544736  PMID: 23289366
Cat; Epidemiology; Retrovirus; Spatial analysis
3.  Suitability of bovine portion condemnations at provincially-inspected abattoirs in Ontario Canada for food animal syndromic surveillance 
Abattoir condemnations may play an important role in a food animal syndromic surveillance system. Portion condemnation data may be particularly useful, as these data can provide more specific information on health outcomes than whole carcass condemnation data. Various seasonal, secular, disease, and non-disease factors have been previously identified to be associated with whole carcass condemnation rates in Ontario provincial abattoirs; and if ignored, may bias the results of quantitative disease surveillance methods. The objective of this study was to identify various seasonal, secular, and abattoir characteristic factors that may be associated with bovine portion condemnation rates and compare how these variables may differ from previously identified factors associated with bovine whole carcass condemnation rates.
Data were collected from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association regarding “parasitic liver” and pneumonic lung condemnation rates for different cattle classes, abattoir compliance ratings, and the monthly sales-yard price for commodity classes from 2001-2007. To control for clustering by abattoirs, multi-level Poisson modeling was used to investigate the association between the following variables and “parasitic liver” as well as pneumonic lung condemnation rates: year, season, annual abattoir audit rating, geographic region, annual abattoir operating time, annual total number of animals processed, animal class, and commodity sales price.
In this study, “parasitic liver” condemnation rates were associated with year, season, animal class, audit rating, and region. Pneumonic lung condemnation rates were associated with year, season, animal class, region, audit rating, number of cattle processed per year, and number of weeks abattoirs processed cattle. Unlike previous models based on whole carcass condemnations, commodity price was not associated with partial condemnations in this study. The results identified material-specific predictor variables for condemnation rates. This is important for syndromic surveillance based on abattoir data and should be modeled and controlled for during quantitative surveillance analysis on a portion specific basis.
PMCID: PMC3543186  PMID: 22726722
4.  Suitability and limitations of portion-specific abattoir data as part of an early warning system for emerging diseases of swine in Ontario 
Abattoir data have the potential to provide information for geospatial disease surveillance applications, but the quality of the data and utility for detecting disease outbreaks is not well understood. The objectives of this study were to 1) identify non-disease factors that may bias these data for disease surveillance and 2) determine if major disease events that took place during the study period would be captured using multi-level modelling and scan statistics. We analyzed data collected at all provincially-inspected abattoirs in Ontario, Canada during 2001-2007. During these years there were outbreaks of porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and swine influenza that produced widespread disease within the province. Negative binomial models with random intercepts for abattoir, to account for repeated measurements within abattoirs, were created. The relationships between partial carcass condemnation rates for pneumonia and nephritis with year, season, agricultural region, stock price, and abattoir processing capacity were explored. The utility of the spatial scan statistic for detecting clusters of high partial carcass condemnation rates in space, time, and space-time was investigated.
Non-disease factors that were found to be associated with lung and kidney condemnation rates included abattoir processing capacity, agricultural region and season. Yearly trends in predicted condemnation rates varied by agricultural region, and temporal patterns were different for both types of condemnations. Some clusters of high condemnation rates of kidneys with nephritis in time and space-time preceded the timeframe during which case clusters were detected using traditional laboratory data. Yearly kidney condemnation rates related to nephritis lesions in eastern Ontario were most consistent with the trends that were expected in relation to the documented disease outbreaks. Yearly lung condemnation rates did not correspond with the timeframes during which major respiratory disease outbreaks took place.
This study demonstrated that a number of abattoir-related factors require consideration when using abattoir data for quantitative disease surveillance. Data pertaining to lungs condemned for pneumonia did not provide useful information for predicting disease events, while partial carcass condemnations of nephritis were most consistent with expected trends. Techniques that adjust for non-disease factors should be considered when applying cluster detection methods to abattoir data.
PMCID: PMC3286412  PMID: 22225910
5.  Spread of porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD) in Ontario (Canada) swine herds: Part I. Exploratory spatial analysis 
The systemic form of porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD), also known as postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) was initially detected in the early 1990s. Starting in 2004, the Canadian swine industry experienced considerable losses due to PCVAD, concurrent with a shift in genotype of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2). Objectives of the current study were to explore spatial characteristics of self-reported PCVAD distribution in Ontario between 2004 and 2008, and to investigate the existence and nature of local spread.
The study included 278 swine herds from a large disease-monitoring project that included porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus-positive herds identified by the diagnostic laboratory, and PRRS virus-negative herds directly from the target population. Herds were included if they had growing pigs present on-site and available geographical coordinates for the sampling site. Furthermore, herds were defined as PCVAD-positive if a producer reported an outbreak of circovirus associated disease, or as PCVAD-negative if no outbreak was noted. Spatial trend was investigated using generalized additive models and time to PCVAD outbreak in a herd using Cox's proportional hazard model; spatial and spatio-temporal clustering was explored using K-functions; and location of most likely spatial and spatio-temporal clusters was investigated using scan statistics. Over the study period, the risk of reporting a PCVAD-positive herd tended to be higher in the eastern part of the province after adjustment for herd PRRS status (P = 0.05). This was partly confirmed for spread (Partial P < 0.01). Local spread also appeared to exist, as suggested by the tentative (P = 0.06) existence of spatio-temporal clustering of PCVAD and detection of a spatio-temporal cluster (P = 0.04).
In Ontario, PCVAD has shown a general trend, spreading from east-to-west. We interpret the existence of spatio-temporal clustering as evidence of spatio-temporal aggregation of PCVAD-positive cases above expectations and, together with the existence of spatio-temporal and spatial clusters, as suggestive of apparent local spread of PCVAD. Clustering was detected at small spatial and temporal scales. Other patterns of spread could not be detected; however, survival rates in discrete Ontario zones, as well as a lack of a clear spatial pattern in the most likely spatio-temporal clusters, suggest other between-herd transmission mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3024231  PMID: 21190587
6.  Spread of porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD) in Ontario (Canada) swine herds: Part II. Matched case-control study 
The emergence of porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD) was associated with high mortality in swine populations worldwide. Studies performed in different regions identified spatial, temporal, and spatio-temporal trends as factors contributing to patterns of the disease spread. Patterns consistent with spatial trend and spatio-temporal clustering were already identified in this dataset. On the basis of these results, we have further investigated the nature of local spread in this report. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate risk factors for incidence cases of reported PCVAD.
A time-matched case-control study was used as a study design approach, and conditional logistic regression as the analytical method. The main exposure of interest was local spread, which was defined as an unidentified mechanism of PCVAD spread between premises located within 3 kilometers of the Euclidean distance. Various modifications of variables indicative of local spread were also evaluated. The dataset contained 278 swine herds from Ontario originally sampled either from diagnostic laboratory submissions or directly from the target population. A PCVAD case was defined on the basis of the producer's recall. Existence of apparent local spread over the entire study period was confirmed (OR = 2.26, 95% CI: 1.06, 4.83), and was further identified to be time-varying in nature - herds experiencing outbreaks in the later part of the epidemic were more likely than control herds to be exposed to neighboring herds experiencing recent PCVAD outbreaks. More importantly, the pattern of local spread was driven by concurrent occurrence of PCVAD on premises under the same ownership (OREXACTwithin ownership = 25.6, 95% CI: 3.4, +inf; OREXACToutside ownership = 1.3, 95% CI: 0.45, 3.3). Other significant factors included PRRSv status of a herd (OREXACT = 1.9, 95% CI: 1.0, 3.9), after adjusting for geographical location by including the binary effect of the easting coordinate (Easting > 600 km = 1; OREXACT = 1.8, 95% CI: 0.5, 5.6).
These results preclude any conclusion regarding the existence of a mechanism of local spread through airborne transmission or indirectly through contaminated fomites or vectors, as simultaneous emergence of PCVAD could also be a result of concurrent change in contributing factors due to other mechanisms within ownerships.
PMCID: PMC3023701  PMID: 21190586
7.  Factors associated with whole carcass condemnation rates in provincially-inspected abattoirs in Ontario 2001-2007: implications for food animal syndromic surveillance 
Ontario provincial abattoirs have the potential to be important sources of syndromic surveillance data for emerging diseases of concern to animal health, public health and food safety. The objectives of this study were to: (1) describe provincially inspected abattoirs processing cattle in Ontario in terms of the number of abattoirs, the number of weeks abattoirs process cattle, geographical distribution, types of whole carcass condemnations reported, and the distance animals are shipped for slaughter; and (2) identify various seasonal, secular, disease and non-disease factors that might bias the results of quantitative methods, such as cluster detection methods, used for food animal syndromic surveillance.
Data were collected from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Cattlemen's Association regarding whole carcass condemnation rates for cattle animal classes, abattoir compliance ratings, and the monthly sales-yard price for various cattle classes from 2001-2007. To analyze the association between condemnation rates and potential explanatory variables including abattoir characteristics, season, year and commodity price, as well as animal class, negative binomial regression models were fit using generalized estimating equations (GEE) to account for autocorrelation among observations from the same abattoir. Results of the fitted model found animal class, year, season, price, and audit rating are associated with condemnation rates in Ontario abattoirs. In addition, a subset of data was used to estimate the average distance cattle are shipped to Ontario provincial abattoirs. The median distance from the farm to the abattoir was approximately 82 km, and 75% of cattle were shipped less than 100 km.
The results suggest that secular and seasonal trends, as well as some non-disease factors will need to be corrected for when applying quantitative methods for syndromic surveillance involving these data. This study also demonstrated that animals shipped to Ontario provincial abattoirs come from relatively local farms, which is important when considering the use of spatial surveillance methods for these data.
PMCID: PMC2933697  PMID: 20704738
8.  House-level risk factors associated with the colonization of broiler flocks with Campylobacter spp. in Iceland, 2001 – 2004 
The concurrent rise in consumption of fresh chicken meat and human campylobacteriosis in the late 1990's in Iceland led to a longitudinal study of the poultry industry to identify the means to decrease the frequency of broiler flock colonization with Campylobacter. Because horizontal transmission from the environment is thought to be the most likely source of Campylobacter to broilers, we aimed to identify broiler house characteristics and management practices associated with flock colonization. Between May 2001 and September 2004, pooled caecal samples were obtained from 1,425 flocks at slaughter and cultured for Campylobacter. Due to the strong seasonal variation in flock prevalence, analyses were restricted to a subset of 792 flocks raised during the four summer seasons. Logistic regression models with a farm random effect were used to analyse the association between flock Campylobacter status and house-level risk factors. A two-stage process was carried out. Variables were initially screened within major subsets: ventilation; roof and floor drainage; building quality, materials and repair; house structure; pest proofing; biosecurity; sanitation; and house size. Variables with p ≤ 0.15 were then offered to a comprehensive model. Multivariable analyses were used in both the screening stage (i.e. within each subset) and in the comprehensive model.
217 out of 792 flocks (27.4%) tested positive. Four significant risk factors were identified. Campylobacter colonization was predicted to increase when the flock was raised in a house with vertical (OR = 2.7), or vertical and horizontal (OR = 3.2) ventilation shafts, when the producer's boots were cleaned and disinfected prior to entering the broiler house (OR = 2.2), and when the house was cleaned with geothermal water (OR = 3.3).
The increased risk associated with vertical ventilation shafts might be related to the height of the vents and the potential for vectors such as flies to gain access to the house, or, increased difficulty in accessing the vents for proper cleaning and disinfection. For newly constructed houses, horizontal ventilation systems could be considered. Boot dipping procedures should be examined on farms experiencing a high prevalence of Campylobacter. Although it remains unclear how geothermal water increases risk, further research is warranted to determine if it is a surrogate for environmental pressures or the microclimate of the farm and surrounding region.
PMCID: PMC2200641  PMID: 17997846

Results 1-8 (8)