Robinson, S. J., M. D. Samuel, R. E. Rolley, P. Shelton. Using landscape epidemiological models to understand the distribution of chronic wasting disease in the Midwestern USA. Landscape Ecology 28:1923-1935.
Animal movement across the landscape plays a critical role in the ecology of infectious wildlife diseases. Dispersing animals can spread pathogens between infected areas and naive populations. While tracking free-ranging animals over the geographic scales relevant to landscape-level disease management is challenging, landscape features that influence gene flow among wildlife populations may also influence the contact rates and disease spread between populations. We used spatial diffusion and barriers to white-tailed deer gene flow, identified through landscape genetics, to model the distribution of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the infected region of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, USA. Our generalized linear model (GLM) showed that risk of CWD infection declined exponentially with distance from current outbreaks, and inclusion of gene flow barriers dramatically improved fit and predictive power of the model. Our results indicate that CWD is spreading across the Midwestern landscape from these two endemic foci, but spread is strongly influenced by highways and rivers that also reduce deer gene flow. We used our model to plot a risk map, offering important information for CWD management by considering likely routes of disease spread and providing a tool for prioritizing disease monitoring and containment efforts. The current analysis may serve as a framework for modeling future risk drawing on genetic information to investigate barriers to disease spread and extending