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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 17;9(6):e100137. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100137. eCollection 2014.

Using animal performance data to evidence the under-reporting of case herds during an epizootic: application to an outbreak of bluetongue in cattle.

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  • 1INRA, UMR1300 Biology, Epidemiology and Risk Analysis in animal health, Nantes, France; LUNAM Université, Oniris, Ecole nationale vétérinaire, agroalimentaire et de l'alimentation Nantes-Atlantique, Nantes, France.
  • 2INRA, UR 546, Biostatistics and Spatial Processes, Avignon, France.


Following the emergence of the Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) in France in 2006, a surveillance system (both passive and active) was implemented to detect and follow precociously the progression of the epizootic wave. This system did not allow a precise estimation of the extent of the epizootic. Infection by BTV-8 is associated with a decrease of fertility. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether a decrease in fertility can be used to evidence the under-reporting of cases during an epizootic and to quantify to what extent non-reported cases contribute to the total burden of the epizootic. The cow fertility in herds in the outbreak area (reported or not) was monitored around the date of clinical signs. A geostatistical interpolation method was used to estimate a date of clinical signs for non-reported herds. This interpolation was based on the spatiotemporal dynamic of confirmed case herds reported in 2007. Decreases in fertility were evidenced for both types of herds around the date of clinical signs. In non-reported herds, the decrease fertility was large (60% of the effect in reported herds), suggesting that some of these herds have been infected by the virus during 2007. Production losses in non-reported infected herds could thus contribute to an important part of the total burden of the epizootic. Overall, results indicate that performance data can be used to evidence the under-reporting during an epizootic. This approach could be generalized to pathogens that affect cattle's performance, including zoonotic agents such as Coxiella burnetii or Rift Valley fever virus.

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