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Temporal and geographic distribution of weather conditions favorable to airborne spread of foot-and-mouth disease in the coterminous United States

Hagerman, Amy D., South, David D., Sondgerath, Travis C., Patyk, Kelly A., Sanson, Robert L., Schumacher, Russ S., Delgado, Amy H., Magzamen, Sheryl
Preventive veterinary medicine 2018 v.161 pp. 41-49
airborne transmission, animal diseases, cattle, economic impact, foot-and-mouth disease, geographical distribution, geographical variation, monitoring, risk factors, swine, temperature, weather, weather stations, winter, Midwestern United States
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly infectious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals. FMD outbreaks have the potential to cause significant economic consequences, and effective control strategies are needed to minimize the damage to livestock systems and the economy. Although not the predominant route of infection, airborne transmission has been implicated in previous outbreaks. Under favorable weather conditions, airborne spread of FMD can make the rapid containment of an outbreak more difficult. Our objective was to identify seasonal and geographic differences in patterns of conditions favorable to airborne FMD spread in the United States. Data from a national network of surface weather stations were examined for three study years (December 2011–November 2012, December 2012–November 2013, December 2014–November 2015). Weather conditions were found to be most frequently favorable to airborne spread during the winter (December, January, February). Geographically, conditions were most frequently favorable to airborne FMD spread in the upper Midwestern United States, a region where swine and cattle populations are common. Across study years, conditions for airborne FMD spread were more frequently favorable when weather conditions were generally mild with few extremes with respect to temperature and precipitation (e.g., 2014–2015). However, national patterns in risk areas for airborne FMD spread were similar across study years even though the degree of risk differed based on variations in weather patterns among study years. Our findings suggest that airborne transmission could contribute to FMD spread between livestock premises in the event of an outbreak in the coterminous United States, and that some geographic areas are at an increased risk particularly in seasons with conducive weather conditions. To our knowledge, this is the first study to characterize the risk of airborne FMD spread on a national scale in the United States. The findings presented here can be used to enhance preparedness and surveillance activities by identifying specific geographic areas in the United States where airborne spread is most likely to be a risk factor for transmission during an outbreak.