A Global Approach to Disease Prevention: Predicting High Risk Areas for West Nile Infection in the Us
WN virus has spread for over 60 years creating endemic and epidemic areas throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe, affecting human, bird, and equine populations. Its 1999 appearance in New York shows the ability of the virus to cross barriers and travel great distances, emerging into new territories previously free of infection. Spreading much faster than expected, WN virus has infected thousands of birds, equine, and humans throughout the conterminous United States (US). Case and serological studies performed in the Eastern hemisphere prior to 1999 offer detailed descriptions of endemic and epidemic locations in regards to geography, land cover, land use, population, climate, and weather patterns. Based on the severity of WN activity within each study area, the patterns associated with these environmental factors allow for the identification of values associated with different levels of risk. We can then model the landscape of the disease within the US and identify areas of high risk for infection. State and county public health officials can use this model as a decision-making tool to allocate funding for disease prevention and control. Dynamic factors associated with increased transmission, such as above average temperature and precipitation, can be closely monitored and measures of prevention can be implemented when necessary. In turn, detailed information from higher resolution analyses can be documented to an online GIS (Geographic Information System) that would contribute to a global collaboration on outbreaks and prevention of disease.