Planning for Rift Valley fever virus: use of geographical information systems to estimate the human health threat of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)-related transmission

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Sravan Kakani
A. Desirée LaBeaud
Charles H. King *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Charles H. King | chk@cwru.edu

Abstract

Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus is a mosquito-borne phlebovirus of the Bunyaviridae family that causes frequent outbreaks of severe animal and human disease in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Based on its many known competent vectors, its potential for transmission via aerosolization, and its progressive spread from East Africa to neighbouring regions, RVF is considered a high-priority, emerging health threat for humans, livestock and wildlife in all parts of the world. Introduction of West Nile virus to North America has shown the potential for “exotic” viral pathogens to become embedded in local ecological systems. While RVF is known to infect and amplify within domestic livestock, such as taurine cattle, sheep and goats, if RVF virus is accidentally or intentionally introduced into North America, an important unknown factor will be the role of local wildlife in the maintenance or propagation of virus transmission. We examined the potential impact of RVF transmission via white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a typical north-eastern United States urban-suburban landscape, where livestock are rare but where these potentially susceptible, ungulate wildlife are highly abundant. Model results, based on overlap of mosquito, human and projected deer densities, indicate that a significant proportion (497/1186 km2, i.e. 42%) of the urban and peri-urban landscape could be affected by RVF transmission during the late summer months. Deer population losses, either by intervention for herd reduction or by RVF-related mortality, would substantially reduce these likely transmission zones to 53.1 km2, i.e. by 89%.

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