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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Feb 7;276(1656):469-76. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1009.

Representing the UK's cattle herd as static and dynamic networks.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.


Network models are increasingly being used to understand the spread of diseases through sparsely connected populations, with particular interest in the impact of animal movements upon the dynamics of infectious diseases. Detailed data collected by the UK government on the movement of cattle may be represented as a network, where animal holdings are nodes, and an edge is drawn between nodes where a movement of animals has occurred. These network representations may vary from a simple static representation, to a more complex, fully dynamic one where daily movements are explicitly captured. Using stochastic disease simulations, a wide range of network representations of the UK cattle herd are compared. We find that the simpler static network representations are often deficient when compared with a fully dynamic representation, and should therefore be used only with caution in epidemiological modelling. In particular, due to temporal structures within the dynamic network, static networks consistently fail to capture the predicted epidemic behaviour associated with dynamic networks even when parameterized to match early growth rates.

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