Analysis of German BSE surveillance data : estimation of the prevalence of confirmed cases versus the number of infected, but non-detected, cattle to assess confidence in freedom from infection
Quantitative risk assessments for Bovine pongiform ncephalopathy (BSE) necessitate estimates for key parameters such as the prevalence of infection, the probability of absence of infection in defined birth cohorts, and the numbers of BSE-infected, but non-detected cattle entering the food chain. We estimated three key parameters with adjustment for misclassification using the German BSE surveillance data using a Gompertz model for latent (i.e., unobserved) age-dependent detection probabilities and a Poisson response model for the number of BSE cases for birth cohorts 1999 to 2015. The models were combined in a Bayesian framework. We estimated the median true BSE prevalence between 3.74 and 0.216 cases per 100,000 animals for the birth cohorts 1990 to 2001 and observed a peak for the 1996 birth cohort with a point estimate of 16.41 cases per 100,000 cattle. For birth cohorts ranging from 2002 to 2013, the estimated median prevalence was below one case per 100,000 heads. The calculated confidence in freedom from disease (design prevalence 1 in 100,000) was above 99.5% for the birth cohorts 2002 to 2006. In conclusion, BSE surveillance in the healthy slaughtered cattle chain was extremely sensitive at the time, when BSE repeatedly occurred in Germany (2000-2009), because the entry of BSE-infected cattle into the food chain could virtually be prevented by the extensive surveillance program during these years and until 2015 (estimated non-detected cases/100.000 [95% credible interval] in 2000, 2009, and 2015 are 0.64 [0.5,0.8], 0.05 [0.01,0.14], and 0.19 [0.05,0.61], respectively).