Emerging infectious diseases threaten wildlife populations and human health. Understanding the spatial distributions of these new diseases is important for disease management and policy makers; however, the data are complicated by heterogeneities across host classes, sampling variance, sampling biases, and the space-time epidemic process. Ignoring these issues can lead to false conclusions or obscure important patterns in the data, such as spatial variation in disease prevalence. Here, we applied hierarchical Bayesian disease mapping methods to account for risk factors and to estimate spatial and temporal patterns of infection by chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) of Wisconsin, USA. We found significant heterogeneities for infection due to age, sex, and spatial location. Infection probability increased with age for all young deer, increased with age faster for young males, and then declined for some older animals, as expected from disease-associated mortality and age-related changes in infection risk. We found that disease prevalence was clustered in a central location, as expected under a simple spatial epidemic process where disease prevalence should increase with time and expand spatially. However, we could not detect any consistent temporal or spatiotemporal trends in CWD prevalence. Estimates of the temporal trend indicated that prevalence may have decreased or increased with nearly equal posterior probability, and the model without temporal or spatiotemporal effects was nearly equivalent to models with these effects based on deviance information criteria. For maximum interpretability of the role of location as a disease risk factor, we used the technique of direct standardization for prevalence mapping, which we develop and describe. These mapping results allow disease management actions to be employed with reference to the estimated spatial distribution of the disease and to those host classes most at risk. Future wildlife epidemiology studies should employ hierarchical Bayesian methods to smooth estimated quantities across space and time, account for heterogeneities, and then report disease rates based on an appropriate standardization. ?? 2009 by the Ecological Society of America.
Additional Publication Details
Spatial and temporal patterns of chronic wasting disease: Fine-scale mapping of a wildlife epidemic in Wisconsin