Royal Veterinary College uses @RISK for bird flu

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is using @RISK risk analysis software from Palisade as part of its research aimed at developing methods for controlling and preventing the occurrence of dangerous and infectious diseases in animals. 

The RVC's Epidemiology division conducts research into the factors influencing animal health. In the case of 'bird flu', this includes identifying the risks associated with the disease such as how it is spread and the likelihood of occurrence.  The investigators build their findings into @RISK models, run thousands of simulations, and then analyse the outcomes to determine appropriate activities for preventing spread of the infection.

When determining risks, the RVC examines the likelihood of an infected migratory bird coming to the UK.  This requires knowledge about how prevalent the disease is in that particular species of bird, and how many birds will migrate.  The likelihood of the migratory birds coming into contact with domestic birds, such as free-range chickens, must also be assessed - many wild birds are more likely to remain on wetland areas where they congregate and therefore only mix with other wild birds. Temperature must also be accounted for as viruses survive longer in the cold.

Data about the risk factors influencing the spread of avian flu to the UK are used in the @RISK model, which calculates the likelihood of thousands of possible outcomes, thus providing crucial insight into suggested control measures.  For example, slaughtering poultry on and around infected farms is the most drastic resolution.  However, if the @RISK model indicates that the chance of that particular episode of avian flu spreading is very low, it may be possible to adopt an alternative strategy, such as seclusion, that is statistically sufficient for mitigating the chances of infection.

 Professor Pfeiffer, leader of the RVC's Epidemiology Division, said: ‘Palisade is something like a Microsoft of risk analysis software, therefore we felt it was the most appropriate tool for the RVC to use for this particular task.  We deal with issues that have significant health risks to animals and humans, as well as economic impact, which is why we need supporting software that is powerful, sophisticated, and flexible.  @RISK ensures that the various organisations that depend on our advice are provided with the best possible solution available to them.’

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