SUNY Downstate researchers identify areas of plague risk in western US

December 28, 2015

Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have identified and mapped areas of high probability of plague bacteria in the western United States.

Their findings were published in a recent edition of the journal, PeerJ.

This investigation predicted animal plague occurrence across western states based on reported occurrences of plague in sylvan (wild) and domestic animal hosts. Plague is a disease caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium found in rodents and their fleas in many areas around the world.

"This study used surveillance data of plague in wild and domestic animals in the American West to identify and map those areas with the greatest potential for human exposure to this infection, which can be particularly deadly when transmitted to humans," said Michael Walsh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate.

"The findings can be used by public health agencies to target specific areas for enhanced plague surveillance within areas and counties predicted to be at high risk, as well as by other research teams to direct the sampling of local wildlife populations for the identification of Yersinia pestis in wild animals that find themselves in close proximity to humans and human developed landscapes," he added.

The citation for the article is:

Walsh M, Haseeb M. (2015) Modeling the ecologic niche of plague in sylvan and domestic animal hosts to delineate sources of human exposure in the western United States. PeerJ 3:e1493 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1493.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), plague was first introduced into the United States in 1900, by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from affected areas. Epidemics occurred in port cities, with the last urban plague epidemic in the United States occurring in Los Angeles from 1924 through 1925. Plague then spread from urban rats to rural rodent species, and became entrenched in many areas of the western United States. Since that time, plague has occurred as scattered cases in rural areas. Most human cases in the United States occur in two regions: Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado; and California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada

The CDC also notes that in recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases has been reported each year (range: 1-17 cases per year). Plague has occurred in people of all ages (infants up to age 96), though 50% of cases occur in people ages 12-45.

The authors note in their article that while zoonotic (animal) transmission to humans is much less common in modern times, significant plague risk remains in parts of the western U.S. Moreover, risk to some threatened species that are part of the epizootic cycle can be quite substantive.

This investigation attempted to predict the risk of plague across the western US by modeling the ecologic niche of plague in sylvan and domestic animals identified between 2000 and 2015. An algorithm was used to predict this niche based on climate, altitude, land cover, and the presence of an important enzootic (carrier) species, Peromyscus maniculatus (a rodent commonly known as the North American deermouse).

This model demonstrated good predictive ability and identified areas of high risk in central Colorado, north-central New Mexico, and southwestern and northeastern California.

The presence of P. maniculatus, altitude, precipitation during the driest and wettest quarters, and distance to artificial surfaces, all contributed substantively to maximizing the gain function. These findings add to the known landscape epidemiology and infection ecology of plague in the western U.S. and may suggest locations of particular risk to be targeted for wild and domestic animal intervention.
-end-
SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school. For more information, visit http://www.downstate.edu .

SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.