Professor Kao is the Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the University of Edinburgh, and is working with Public Health Scotland on coronavirus. He is a member of the UK Government’s Science Advisory Council.
He is a mathematical biologist who studies infectious disease dynamics, mainly with respect to the role of demography in the spread and persistence of livestock diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, bovine tuberculosis, scrapie, BSE and avian influenza in poultry. This work includes the development of theoretical models of disease transmission on social networks and applications to the transmission of livestock diseases using simple differential equation models, analysis of social networks, statistics and simulations. Increasingly, it involves the integrated analysis of
genetic and epidemiological data to determine the characteristics of disease outbreaks, with bovine Tuberculosis being a lead example.
He is also interested in the development of real-time parameter estimation techniques during the course of disease outbreaks. This research integrates demographic and spatial/geographic data for all large livestock and poultry in the UK, detailed information regarding the movements of livestock amongst agricultural premises and molecular epidemiology. Within EPIC, much of the activity he is involved in considers the risks of disease transmission associated with livestock movements, in particular, identifying risky activities and the implications of controlling them. As such it integrates a wide variety of topics, most importantly the analysis of networks, but also elements of human behaviour (why do farmers move livestock the way they do, and what would happen if the conditions under which they moved livestock, changed), risk-based surveillance (can we use livestock movements and other forms of contact to identify individual farms most at risk of disease, and/or of transmitting it) and parameter inference (from observed disease data, can we estimate the relative and absolute importance of different routes of contact).
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