Substantial resources are used for surveillance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) despite an extremely low detection rate, especially in healthy slaughtered cattle. We have developed a method based on the geometric waiting time distribution to establish and update the statistical evidence for BSE-freedom for defined birth cohorts using continued surveillance data. The results suggest that currently (data included till September 2004) a birth cohort of Danish cattle born after March 1999 is free from BSE with probability (power) of 0.8746 or 0.8509, depending on the choice of a model for the diagnostic sensitivity. These results apply to an assumed design prevalence of 1 in 10,000 and account for prevalence heterogeneity. The age-dependent, diagnostic sensitivity for the detection of BSE has been identified as major determinant of the power. The incorporation of heterogeneity was deemed adequate on scientific grounds and led to improved power values. We propose our model as a decision tool for possible future modification of the BSE surveillance and discuss public health and international trade implications.
- freedom from disease
- prevalence heterogeneity
- geometric waiting time
- bovine spongiform encephalopathy
- birth cohorts