In Ireland new cases of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) are detected using both field (with the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT)) and abattoir surveillance. Once a new case has been detected, herd restrictions, including restrictions on animal movements into and out of the herd, are implemented until the herd has passed two consecutive clear tests. While a herd is restricted, there may be several reasons why it may be desirable to introduce new stock, such as enabling routine management practices to continue 'as near to normal'. In Ireland, introduction of animals during a bTB episode is permitted under specific conditions, with permission from the local veterinary office. The objectives of this study were (1) to provide an overview of movement events associated with each bTB episode, (2) to determine whether introduction of animals during a bTB episode is associated with increased future bTB risk and (3) to identify the practices relating to the introduction of animals that are the most risky. All herds that were not restricted at the start of 2006, but experienced a bTB episode during 2006 with 2 or more SICTT standard reactors (the eligible bTB episode) were included in the study. We calculated the number of extended eligible bTB episodes and subsequent bTB episodes that could be directly attributed to introduced animals. The main outcome of interest was the time from de-restriction of the eligible bTB episode to the start of a subsequent bTB episode or the date of the last test prior to the end of the study (31 December 2010). Cox proportional-hazard models were developed, each using a different introduction variable: introduced animals during an episode (yes/no), introduced animals prior to the first retest/first clear test, time from start of episode until first animals introduced and number of animals introduced during the episode. Only a small proportion of subsequent bTB episodes (1.8%) or extended eligible bTB episodes (2.7%) could be directly attributed to introduced animals. The results highlight an increased risk of a subsequent bTB episode among only a subset of herds that introduced animals during the eligible bTB episode. Specifically, herds that introduced animals early during the eligible bTB episode were at significantly greater future bTB risk than herds where animals were only introduced later. To illustrate, herds that introduced animals after the first retest did not have a significantly different risk compared to herds that did not introduce animals at all. In contrast, herds that did introduce animals prior to the first retest had 1.5 times higher risk of a subsequent bTB episode. Future practices concerning the introduction of animals during an episode now need to be reviewed.
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