…from BMC Veterinary Research…
On the Question of Proportionality of the Count of Observed Scrapie Cases and the Size of Holding
The present paper investigates the question of a suitable basic model for the number of scrapie cases in a holding and applications of this knowledge to the estimation of scrapie-affected holding population sizes and adequacy of control measures within holding. Is the number of scrapie cases proportional to the size of the holding in which case it should be incorporated into the parameter of the error distribution for the scrapie counts? Or, is there a different – potentially more complex – relationship between case count and holding size in which case the information about the size of the holding should be better incorporated as a covariate in the modeling?
We show that this question can be appropriately addressed via a simple zero-truncated Poisson model in which the hypothesis of proportionality enters as a special offset-model. Model comparisons can be achieved by means of likelihood ratio testing. The procedure is illustrated by means of surveillance data on classical scrapie in Great Britain. Furthermore, the model with the best fit is used to estimate the size of the scrapie-affected holding population in Great Britain by means of two capture-recapture estimators: the Poisson estimator and the generalized Zelterman estimator.
No evidence could be found for the hypothesis of proportionality. In fact, there is some evidence that this relationship follows a curved line which increases for small holdings up to a maximum after which it declines again. Furthermore, it is pointed out how crucial the correct model choice is when applied to capture-recapture estimation on the basis of zero-truncated Poisson models as well as on the basis of the generalized Zelterman estimator. Estimators based on the proportionality model return very different and unreasonable estimates for the population sizes.
Our results stress the importance of an adequate modelling approach to the association between holding size and the number of cases of classical scrapie within holding. Reporting artefacts and speculative biological effects are hypothesized as the underlying causes of the observed curved relationship. The lack of adjustment for these artefacts might well render ineffective the current strategies for the control of the disease.