When and where: Estimating the date and location of introduction for exotic pests and pathogens

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A fundamental question during the outbreak of a novel disease or invasion of an exotic pest is: At what location and date was it first introduced? With this information, future introductions can be anticipated and perhaps avoided. Point process models are commonly used for mapping species distribution and disease occurrence. If the time and location of introductions were known, then point process models could be used to map and understand the factors that influence introductions; however, rarely is the process of introduction directly observed. We propose embedding a point process within hierarchical Bayesian models commonly used to understand the spatio-temporal dynamics of invasion. Including a point process within a hierarchical Bayesian model enables inference regarding the location and date of introduction from indirect observation of the process such as species or disease occurrence records. We illustrate our approach using disease surveillance data collected to monitor white-nose syndrome, which is a fungal disease that threatens many North American species of bats. We use our model and surveillance data to estimate the location and date that the pathogen was introduced into the United States. Finally, we compare forecasts from our model to forecasts obtained from state-of-the-art regression-based statistical and machine learning methods. Our results show that the pathogen causing white-nose syndrome was most likely introduced into the United States 4 years prior to the first detection, but there is a moderate level of uncertainty in this estimate. The location of introduction could be up to 510 km east of the location of first discovery, but our results indicate that there is a relatively high probability the location of first detection could be the location of introduction.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title When and where: Estimating the date and location of introduction for exotic pests and pathogens
Year Published 2020
Language English
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 25 p.
Country United States
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