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Development of simulation technology for modelling Bluetongue disease spread
Bluetongue Virus (BTV) is endemic in Northern Australia but southern regions, including sheep-rearing areas that could be impacted by the high mortality of Bluetongue among sheep, are BTV-free. However, the current lack of Culicoides midge species that are competent vectors in southern Australia does not mean that the risk of Bluetongue can be ignored. In 2006 and 2008 large and unprecedented Bluetongue outbreaks occurred in northern Europe in areas thought to be safe. The potential future distribution of BTV in Australia is a complex question that may be influenced by changes to weather patterns, the incursion of new competent insect vectors (species of Culicoides midge), the incursion of new strains of BTV, or by evolution of the virus itself.
Given that "real world" experimentation in large scale BTV spread is not feasible, a research technique that can address the question challenge is to develop "virtual world" models of BTV which are as realistic as possible, capturing the fundamental features of the underlying physical system.
We have created a computational simulation model of BTV spread in Australia. This model used relevant data sets including livestock locations and weather patterns along with assumptions about unknown factors (such as the characteristics of incursive BTV strains and vectors) to estimate the timing, geographical extent and livestock impact of a hypothetical Bluetongue outbreak.
The benefit of this work to the livestock industry is primarily as a tool for understanding the likelihood and impact of BTV incursions, and for planning possible mitigation measures such as vaccination that could be used in the event of a Bluetongue outbreak.
This page was last updated on 24/07/2017
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