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Movement patterns of free-roaming dogs on heterogeneous urban landscapes: Implications for rabies control.

Abstract

In 2015, a case of canine rabies in Arequipa, Peru indicated the re-emergence of rabies virus in the city. Despite mass dog vaccination campaigns across the city and reactive ring vaccination and other control activities around positive cases (e.g. elimination of unowned dogs), the outbreak has spread. Here we explore how the urban landscape of Arequipa affects the movement patterns of free-roaming dogs, the main reservoirs of the rabies virus in the area. We tracked 23 free-roaming dogs using Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. We analyzed the spatio-temporal GPS data using the time- local convex hull method. Dog movement patterns varied across local environments. We found that water channels, an urban feature of Arequipa that are dry most of the year, promote movement. Dogs that used the water channels extensively move on average 7 times further (p = 0.002) and 1.2 times more directionally (p = 0.027) than dogs that do not use the water channels at all. They were also 1.3 times faster on average, but this difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.197). Our findings suggest that water channels can be used by dogs as 'highways' to transverse the city and have the potential to spread disease far beyond the radius of control practices. Control efforts should focus on a robust vaccination campaign attuned to the geography of the city, and not limited to small-scale rings surrounding cases.

MIDAS Network Members

Michael Levy

Associate Professor of Epidemiology
University of Pennsylvania

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