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Network analysis of pig movement data as an epidemiological tool: an Austrian case study

Animal movements represent a major risk for the spread of infectious diseases in the domestic swine population.

In this study, we adopted methods from social network analysis to explore pig trades in Austria. We used a dataset of daily records of swine movements covering the period 2015–2021.

We analyzed the topology of the network and its structural changes over time, including seasonal and long-term variations in the pig production activities. Finally, we studied the temporal dynamics of the network community structure.

Our findings show that the Austrian pig production was dominated by small-sized farms while spatial farm density was heterogeneous. The network exhibited a scale-free topology but was very sparse, suggesting a moderate impact of infectious disease outbreaks.

However, two regions (Upper Austria and Styria) may present a higher structural vulnerability. The network also showed very high assortativity between holdings from the same federal state. Dynamic community detection revealed a stable behavior of the clusters.

Yet trade communities did not correspond to sub-national administrative divisions and may be an alternative zoning approach to managing infectious diseases.

Knowledge about the topology, contact patterns, and temporal dynamics of the pig trade network can support optimized risk-based disease control and surveillance strategies.

G.A. Puspitarani, R. Fuchs, K. Fuchs, A. Ladinig, A. Desvars-Larrive, Network analysis of pig movement data as an epidemiological tool: an Austrian case study, Scientific Reports 13 (2023) 9623.

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