Variation in host home range size decreases rabies vaccination effectiveness by increasing the spatial spread of rabies virus


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Abstract

Animal movement influences the spatial spread of directly transmitted wildlife disease through host–host contact structure. Wildlife disease hosts vary in home range-associated foraging and social behaviours, which may increase the spread and intensity of disease outbreaks. The consequences of variation in host home range movement and space use on wildlife disease dynamics are poorly understood, but could help to predict disease spread and determine more effective disease management strategies.We developed a spatially explicit individual-based model to examine the effect of spatiotemporal variation in host home range size on the spatial spread rate, persistence and incidence of rabies virus (RABV) in raccoons (Procyon lotor). We tested the hypothesis that variation in home range size increases RABV spread and decreases vaccination effectiveness in host populations following pathogen invasion into a vaccination zone.We simulated raccoon demography and RABV dynamics across a range of magnitudes and variances in weekly home range size for raccoons. We examined how variable home range size influenced the relative effectiveness of three components of oral rabies vaccination (ORV) programmes targeting raccoons—timing and frequency of bait delivery, width of the ORV zone and proportion of hosts immunized.Variability in weekly home range size increased RABV spread rates by 1.2-fold to 5.2-fold compared to simulations that assumed a fixed home range size. More variable host home range sizes decreased relative vaccination effectiveness by 71% compared to less variable host home range sizes under conventional vaccination conditions. We found that vaccination timing was more influential for vaccination effectiveness than vaccination frequency or vaccination zone width.Our results suggest that variation in wildlife home range movement behaviour increases the spatial spread and incidence of RABV. Our vaccination results underscore the importance of prioritizing individual-level space use and movement data collection to understand wildlife disease dynamics and plan their effective control and elimination.

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