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Estimating Dynamic Risk Factors for Pathogen Transmission Using Community-Level Bird Census Data at the Wildlife/Domestic Interface

Alexandre Caron, UPR AGIRs, Department ES, Cirad, Harare Zimbabwe; UPR AGIRs, Department ES, Cirad, Montpellier France; Mammal Research Institute, Department of Entomology and Zoology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Michel de Garine-Wichatitsky, UPR AGIRs, Deparmtent ES, Cirad, Harare, Zimbabwe; UPR AGIRs, Department ES, Cirad, Montpellier, France
Nicolas Gaidet, UPR AGIRs, Department ES, Cirad, Montpellier, France
Ngoni Chiweshe, UPR AGIRs, Department ES, Cirad, Harare, Zimbabwe
Graeme S Cumming, Percy Fitz-Patrick Institute, DST/NRF Center of Excellence, University of Cape Town


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The ecology of host species is crucial for understanding the mechanisms of pathogen transmission and spread in complex multi-host systems. In this article, we use detailed observations of the host community to develop and apply a new approach to mapping temporal variation in risk for avian influenza. Working in an extensive wetland system near Harare, Zimbabwe, we use the overlap in space and time of highly variable bird communities, combined with ecological risk factors, to assess the risk of Avian Influenza viruses (AIV) maintenance and transmission between bird populations. The estimated introduction and maintenance risks associated with waterfowl populations at a given time are then multiplied by the level of interactions with neighboring domestic production systems during the same period. This approach is used to develop hypotheses for the dynamics of the introduction and circulation of AIV strains in waterfowl populations and as a way of understanding the potential role of “bridge” species at the wild/domestic interface. The novel approach presented here offers a potentially useful way to explore AIV risk, identify which wild bird species may be acting as reservoirs or vectors of pathogens at a local scale, and improve local surveillance.

Key words

Avian influenza; bridge species; community ecology; risk factor; wild/domestic interface

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087