The spread of bluetongue virus serotype 8 in Great Britain and its control by vaccination

Background: Bluetongue (BT) is a viral disease of ruminants transmitted by Culicoides biting midges and has the ability to spread rapidly over large distances. In the summer of 2006, BTV serotype 8 (BTV-8) emerged for the first time in northern Europe, resulting in over 2000 infected farms by the end of the year. The virus subsequently overwintered and has since spread across much of Europe, causing tens of thousands of livestock deaths. In August 2007, BTV-8 reached Great Britain (GB), threatening the large and valuable livestock industry. A voluntary vaccination scheme was launched in GB in May 2008 and, in contrast with elsewhere in Europe, there were no reported cases in GB during 2008. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here, we use carefully parameterised mathematical models to investigate the spread of BTV in GB and its control by vaccination. In the absence of vaccination, the model predicted severe outbreaks of BTV, particularly for warmer temperatures. Vaccination was predicted to reduce the severity of epidemics, with the greatest reduction achieved for high levels (95%) of vaccine uptake. However, even at this level of uptake the model predicted some spread of BTV. The sensitivity of the predictions to vaccination parameters (time to full protection in cattle, vaccine efficacy), the shape of the transmission kernel and temperature dependence in the transmission of BTV between farms was assessed. Conclusions/Significance: A combination of lower temperatures and high levels of vaccine uptake (>80%) in the previously-affected areas are likely to be the major contributing factors in the control achieved in England in 2008. However, low levels of vaccination against BTV-8 or the introduction of other serotypes could result in further, potentially severe outbreaks in future

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