Evaluating Surveillance Strategies for the Early Detection of Low Pathogenicity Avian Influenza Infections
by Arianna Comin, Arjan Stegeman, Stefano Marangon, Don Klinkenberg
In recent years, the early detection of low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) viruses in poultry has become increasingly important, given their potential to mutate into highly pathogenic viruses. However, evaluations of LPAI surveillance have mainly focused on prevalence and not on the ability to act as an early warning system. We used a simulation model based on data from Italian LPAI epidemics in turkeys to evaluate different surveillance strategies in terms of their performance as early warning systems. The strategies differed in terms of sample size, sampling frequency, diagnostic tests, and whether or not active surveillance (i.e., routine laboratory testing of farms) was performed, and were also tested under different epidemiological scenarios. We compared surveillance strategies by simulating within-farm outbreaks. The output measures were the proportion of infected farms that are detected and the farm reproduction number (Rh). The first one provides an indication of the sensitivity of the surveillance system to detect within-farm infections, whereas Rh reflects the effectiveness of outbreak detection (i.e., if detection occurs soon enough to bring an epidemic under control). Increasing the sampling frequency was the most effective means of improving the timeliness of detection (i.e., it occurs earlier), whereas increasing the sample size increased the likelihood of detection. Surveillance was only effective in preventing an epidemic if actions were taken within two days of sampling. The strategies were not affected by the quality of the diagnostic test, although performing both serological and virological assays increased the sensitivity of active surveillance. Early detection of LPAI outbreaks in turkeys can be achieved by increasing the sampling frequency for active surveillance, though very frequent sampling may not be sustainable in the long term. We suggest that, when no LPAI virus is circulating yet and there is a low risk of virus introduction, a less frequent sampling approach might be admitted, provided that the surveillance is intensified as soon as the first outbreak is detected.
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