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Data-Driven Management-A Dynamic Occupancy Approach to Enhanced Rabies Surveillance Prioritization.

Davis AJ, Kirby JD, Chipman RB, Nelson KM, Gilbert AT. Data-Driven Management-A Dynamic Occupancy Approach to Enhanced Rabies Surveillance Prioritization. Viruses. 2021 Sep 9; 13(9).

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Rabies lyssavirus (RABV) is enzootic in raccoons across the eastern United States. Intensive management of RABV by oral rabies vaccination (ORV) has prevented its spread westward and shown evidence of local elimination in raccoon populations of the northeastern US. The USDA, Wildlife Services, National Rabies Management Program (NRMP) collaborates with other agencies to implement broad-scale ORV and conducts extensive monitoring to measure the effectiveness of the management. Enhanced Rabies Surveillance (ERS) was initiated during 2005 and updated in 2016 to direct surveillance efforts toward higher-value specimens by assigning points to different methods of encountering specimens for collection (strange-acting, roadkill, surveillance-trapped, etc.; specimen point values ranged from 1 to 15). We used the 2016-2019 data to re-evaluate the point values using a dynamic occupancy model. Additionally, we used ERS data from 2012-2015 and 2016-2019 to examine the impact that the point system had on surveillance data. Implementation of a point system increased positivity rates among specimens by 64%, indicating a substantial increase in the efficiency of the ERS to detect wildlife rabies. Our re-evaluation found that most points accurately reflect the value of the surveillance specimens. The notable exception was that samples from animals found dead were considerably more valuable for rabies detection than originally considered (original points = 5, new points = 20). This work demonstrates how specimen prioritization strategies can be used to refine and improve ERS in support of wildlife rabies management.

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