North Carolina State University
Contact structure, a critical driver of infectious disease transmission, is not completely understood and characterized for environmentally transmitted pathogens. In this study, we assessed the effects of temporal and spatial heterogeneity in animal contact structures on the dynamics of environmentally transmitted pathogens. We used real-time animal position data to describe contact between animals and specific environmental areas used for feeding and watering calves. The generated contact structure varied across days and among animals. We integrated animal and environmental heterogeneity into an agent-based simulation model for Escherichia coli O157 environmental transmission in cattle to simulate four different scenarios with different environmental bacteria concentrations at different areas. The simulation results suggest heterogeneity in environmental contact structure among cattle influences pathogen prevalence and exposure associated with each environment. Our findings suggest that interventions that target environmental areas, even relatively small areas, with high bacterial concentration can result in effective mitigation of environmentally transmitted pathogens.