Contribution of company affiliation and social contacts to risk estimates of between-farm transmission of avian influenza

Jessica H. Leibler, Marco Carone, Ellen K. Silbergeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Models of between-farm transmission of pathogens have identified service vehicles and social groups as risk factors mediating the spread of infection. Because of high levels of economic organization in much of the poultry industry, we examined the importance of company affiliation, as distinct from social contacts, in a model of the potential spread of avian influenza among broiler poultry farms in a poultry-dense region in the United States. The contribution of company affiliation to risk of between-farm disease transmission has not been previously studied. Methodology/Principal Findings: We obtained data on the nature and frequency of business and social contacts through a national survey of broiler poultry growers in the United States. Daily rates of contact were estimated using Monte Carlo analysis. Stochastic modeling techniques were used to estimate the exposure risk posed by a single infectious farm to other farms in the region and relative risk of exposure for farms under different scenarios. The mean daily rate of vehicular contact was 0.82 vehicles/day. The magnitude of exposure risk ranged from <1% to 25% under varying parameters. Risk of between-farm transmission was largely driven by company affiliation, with farms in the same company group as the index farm facing as much as a 5-fold increase in risk compared to farms contracted with different companies. Employment of part-time workers contributed to significant increases in risk in most scenarios, notably for farms who hired day-laborers. Social visits were significantly less important in determining risk. Conclusions/Significance: Biosecurity interventions should be based on information on industry structure and company affiliation, and include part-time workers as potentially unrecognized sources of viral transmission. Modeling efforts to understand pathogen transmission in the context of industrial food animal production should consider company affiliation in addition to geospatial factors and pathogen characteristics. Restriction of social contacts among farmers may be less useful in reducing between-farm transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9888
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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