Spatio-Temporal Variation in West Nile Virus Intensity

West Nile virus (WNV) emerged in the western hemisphere during the summer of 1999, reawakening public awareness to the potential severity of vector –borne pathogens.

Since its New World introduction, WNV has caused disease in avian, human and other mammalian communities across the continent. American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are highly sensitive to the disease, with mortality rates approaching 100%.

With collaborators (Calder, Doran, Marra) Dr. Shannon LaDeau has quantified and used dramatic declines in abundance of this susceptible avian host as a proxy for WNV activity to explicitly examine heterogeneity in WNV intensity over a broad spatial range and across multiple land cover types. Population-wide estimates of American crow abundances declined an average 30% after the emergence of WNV. However, the spatial pattern of where individual crows were lost varied considerably. They documented significant declines in crow abundance after WNV emergence at 15% of Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) sites across the eastern United States. Generally, locations with more area under human development and less forested area were associated with higher odds of WNV impact.

The potential effects of landscape modification and interactions with changing climate on pathogen dynamics are complex, and likely to alter the ecological processes that define spatio-temporal patterns in composition and abundance of mosquito species and human disease risk.

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Ecological Complexity, Mosquito Production and Disease Risk

Over the past 50 years many regions have experienced a (re)emergence of mosquito-vectored diseases, both due to novel pathogens and those previously eradicated. This phenomenon is increasingly evident in cities across the globe.

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