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      Risk Maps of Lassa Fever in West Africa

      1 , * , 2

      PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

      Public Library of Science

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          Lassa fever is caused by a viral haemorrhagic arenavirus that affects two to three million people in West Africa, causing a mortality of between 5,000 and 10,000 each year. The natural reservoir of Lassa virus is the multi-mammate rat Mastomys natalensis, which lives in houses and surrounding fields. With the aim of gaining more information to control this disease, we here carry out a spatial analysis of Lassa fever data from human cases and infected rodent hosts covering the period 1965–2007. Information on contemporary environmental conditions (temperature, rainfall, vegetation) was derived from NASA Terra MODIS satellite sensor data and other sources and for elevation from the GTOPO30 surface for the region from Senegal to the Congo. All multi-temporal data were analysed using temporal Fourier techniques to generate images of means, amplitudes and phases which were used as the predictor variables in the models. In addition, meteorological rainfall data collected between 1951 and 1989 were used to generate a synoptic rainfall surface for the same region.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Three different analyses (models) are presented, one superimposing Lassa fever outbreaks on the mean rainfall surface (Model 1) and the other two using non-linear discriminant analytical techniques. Model 2 selected variables in a step-wise inclusive fashion, and Model 3 used an information-theoretic approach in which many different random combinations of 10 variables were fitted to the Lassa fever data. Three combinations of absence∶presence clusters were used in each of Models 2 and 3, the 2 absence∶1 presence cluster combination giving what appeared to be the best result. Model 1 showed that the recorded outbreaks of Lassa fever in human populations occurred in zones receiving between 1,500 and 3,000 mm rainfall annually. Rainfall, and to a much lesser extent temperature variables, were most strongly selected in both Models 2 and 3, and neither vegetation nor altitude seemed particularly important. Both Models 2 and 3 produced mean kappa values in excess of 0.91 (Model 2) or 0.86 (Model 3), making them ‘Excellent’.


          The Lassa fever areas predicted by the models cover approximately 80% of each of Sierra Leone and Liberia, 50% of Guinea, 40% of Nigeria, 30% of each of Côte d'Ivoire, Togo and Benin, and 10% of Ghana.

          Author Summary

          Previous studies on the eco-epidemiology of Lassa fever in Guinea, West Africa, have shown that the reservoir is two to three times more infected by Lassa virus in the rainy season than in the dry season. None of the intrinsic variables of the murine population, such as abundance or reproduction, was able to explain this seasonal variation in prevalence. We therefore here investigate the importance of extrinsic environmental variables, partly influenced by the idea that in the case of nephropathia epidemica in Europe contamination of the environment, and therefore survival of the pathogen outside the host, appears to be an important factor in this disease's epidemiology. We therefore made an extensive review of the literature, gathering information about the geographical location of sites where Lassa fever has been certainly identified. Environmental data for these sites (rainfall, temperature, vegetation and altitude) were gathered from a variety of sources, both satellites and ground-based meteorological stations. Several statistical treatments were applied to produce Lassa ‘risk maps’. These maps all indicate a strong influence of rainfall, and a lesser influence of temperature in defining high risk areas. The area of greatest risk is located between Guinea and Cameroon.

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          Most cited references 80

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          The effects of species’ range sizes on the accuracy of distribution models: ecological phenomenon or statistical artefact?

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            Global Data for Ecology and Epidemiology: A Novel Algorithm for Temporal Fourier Processing MODIS Data

            Background Remotely-sensed environmental data from earth-orbiting satellites are increasingly used to model the distribution and abundance of both plant and animal species, especially those of economic or conservation importance. Time series of data from the MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on-board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites offer the potential to capture environmental thermal and vegetation seasonality, through temporal Fourier analysis, more accurately than was previously possible using the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sensor data. MODIS data are composited over 8- or 16-day time intervals that pose unique problems for temporal Fourier analysis. Applying standard techniques to MODIS data can introduce errors of up to 30% in the estimation of the amplitudes and phases of the Fourier harmonics. Methodology/Principal Findings We present a novel spline-based algorithm that overcomes the processing problems of composited MODIS data. The algorithm is tested on artificial data generated using randomly selected values of both amplitudes and phases, and provides an accurate estimate of the input variables under all conditions. The algorithm was then applied to produce layers that capture the seasonality in MODIS data for the period from 2001 to 2005. Conclusions/Significance Global temporal Fourier processed images of 1 km MODIS data for Middle Infrared Reflectance, day- and night-time Land Surface Temperature (LST), Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) are presented for ecological and epidemiological applications. The finer spatial and temporal resolution, combined with the greater geolocational and spectral accuracy of the MODIS instruments, compared with previous multi-temporal data sets, mean that these data may be used with greater confidence in species' distribution modelling.
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              Is Open Access

              Hantavirus in African Wood Mouse, Guinea

              Hantaviruses are rodentborne, emerging viruses that cause life-threatening human diseases in Eurasia and the Americas. We detected hantavirus genome sequences in an African wood mouse (Hylomyscus simus) captured in Sangassou, Guinea. Sequence and phylogenetic analyses of the genetic material demonstrate a novel hantavirus species, which we propose to name "Sangassou virus."

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Negl Trop Dis
                PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                March 2009
                3 March 2009
                : 3
                : 3
                [1 ]Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
                [2 ]Spatial Ecology and Epidemiology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
                University of Texas Medical Branch, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: EFC. Performed the experiments: EFC DJR. Analyzed the data: EFC DJR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: EFC DJR. Wrote the paper: EFC DJR. Compiled the literature source: EFC. Performed the statistical modelling: DJR.

                Fichet-Calvet, Rogers. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 13
                Research Article
                Computational Biology/Ecosystem Modeling
                Infectious Diseases/Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Infectious Diseases/Viral Infections
                Virology/Emerging Viral Diseases

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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