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Application of Species Distribution Modeling for Avian Influenza surveillance in the United States considering the North America Migratory Flyways.

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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has recently (2014-2015) re-emerged in the United States (US) causing the largest outbreak in US history with 232 outbreaks and an estimated economic impact of $950 million. This study proposes to use suitability maps for Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) to identify areas at high risk for HPAI outbreaks. LPAI suitability maps were based on wild bird demographics, LPAI surveillance, and poultry density in combination with environmental, climatic, and socio-economic risk factors. Species distribution modeling was used to produce high-resolution (cell size: 500m x 500m) maps for Avian Influenza (AI) suitability in each of the four North American migratory flyways (NAMF). Results reveal that AI suitability is heterogeneously distributed throughout the US with higher suitability in specific zones of the Midwest and coastal areas. The resultant suitability maps adequately predicted most of the HPAI outbreak areas during the 2014-2015 epidemic in the US (i.e. 89% of HPAI outbreaks were located in areas identified as highly suitable for LPAI). Results are potentially useful for poultry producers and stakeholders in designing risk-based surveillance, outreach and intervention strategies to better prevent and control future HPAI outbreaks in the US.

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