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We analyse the relationship between the network of livestock movements in the UK and the dynamics of two diseases: foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which has an incubation period of days, and scrapie, which incubates over years. For FMD, the time-scale of expected epidemics is similar to the time-scale of the evolution of the network. We argue that, under appropriate conditions, a static network analysis can be an appropriate tool for gaining insights into disease dynamics even when the relevant time-scales are similar, as with FMD. We show that a subclass of 'linkage moves' maintains the network structure, and so removing these links has a dramatic effect on the number of potentially infected farms, an effect corroborated by simulations. In contrast, because scrapie has a low probability of transmission per contact and a long incubation period, a static network representation is probably appropriate; however, the signature of the network in the pattern of transmission is likely to be faint. Scrapie-notifying farms were more likely to be associated with each other via trading at markets than were control farms; however, network community structure proves to be less representative of prevalence patterns than geographical region. These contradictory indicators emphasize that appropriate observation time frames and good discrimination among types of potentially infectious contacts are vital in order for network analysis to be a valuable epidemiological tool.

Original publication




Journal article


J r soc interface

Publication Date





907 - 916


Animals, Animals, Domestic, Cattle, Cattle Diseases, Disease Outbreaks, Disease Transmission, Infectious, Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Goat Diseases, Goats, Scrapie, Sheep, Sheep Diseases, Time Factors, Transportation, United Kingdom