Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Buhnerkempe MG, Tildesley MJ, Lindstro¨m T, Grear DA, Portacci K, et al. (2014) The Impact of Movements and Animal Density on Continental Scale Cattle Disease Outbreaks in the United States. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91724. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091724


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Globalization has increased the potential for the introduction and spread of novel pathogens over large spatial scales necessitating continental-scale disease models to guide emergency preparedness. Livestock disease spread models, such as those for the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) epidemic in the United Kingdom, represent some of the best case studies of large-scale disease spread. However, generalization of these models to explore disease outcomes in other systems, such as the United States’s cattle industry, has been hampered by differences in system size and complexity and the absence of suitable livestock movement data. Here, a unique database of US cattle shipments allows estimation of synthetic movement networks that inform a near-continental scale disease model of a potential FMD-like (i.e., rapidly spreading) epidemic in US cattle. The largest epidemics may affect over one-third of the US and 120,000 cattle premises, but cattle movement restrictions from infected counties, as opposed to national movement moratoriums, are found to effectively contain outbreaks. Slow detection or weak compliance may necessitate more severe state-level bans for similar control. Such results highlight the role of large-scale disease models in emergency preparedness, particularly for systems lacking comprehensive movement and outbreak data, and the need to rapidly implement multi-scale contingency plans during a potential US outbreak.