Characteristics of Wind-Infective Farms of the 2006 Bluetongue Serotype 8 Epidemic in Northern Europe
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Bluetongue is a Culicoides-borne viral disease of livestock. In 2006, northern Europe experienced a major outbreak of this disease with devastating effects on the livestock industry. The outbreak quickly spread over the region, primarily affecting cattle and sheep. A previous analysis of the role of vector flight and wind in the spread of this virus across northern Europe indicated that infection at 1,326 (65%) of the reported infected farms could be traced back to just 599 (29%) farms (wind-infective farms). Rather than focusing on presence or absence of vectors or difference between infected and non-infected farms, we investigate the zoological and environmental characteristics of these 599 wind-infective farms (which can be thought of as super-spreaders) in order to characterize what makes them distinct from non-infective farms. Differences in temperature, precipitation, and the density of sheep at individual farms were identified between these two groups. These environmental and zoological factors are known to affect vector abundance and may have promoted bluetongue virus transmission. Identifying such ecological differences can help in the description and quantification of relative risk in affected areas.