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Using knowledge fusion to map avian influenza H5N1 in East and Southeast Asia

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 , a disease associated with high rates of mortality in infected human populations, poses a serious threat to public health in many parts of the world. This article reports findings from a study aimed at improving our understanding of the spatial pattern of avian influenza risk in East-Southeast Asia where the disease is both persistent and devastating. It is recognized that many different disciplines have made and continue to make important contributions to our understanding of HPAI H5N1 . However, it remains a challenge to integrate knowledge from different disciplines. This article reports the findings from a study that applies genetic analysis that identifies the evolution of the H5N1 virus in space and time, epidemiological analysis that determines socio-ecological factors associated with H5N1 occurrence and statistical cluster analysis that identifies outbreak clusters, and then applies a methodology to formally integrate the three sets of findings. The present study is novel in two respects. First it uses genetic sequences and space-time data to create a phylogenetic tree to estimate the virus’ ability to spread. This is the first attempt to provide a mapping of the H5N1 virus derived from the phylogenetic tree. Second, by integrating the results obtained from the three methodologies we are able to generate insights into the occurrence and space-time spread of H5N1 that we believe have a higher level of corroboration than is possible when analysis is based on only one methodology. Our research identifies links between the occurrence of H5N1 by area and a set of socio-ecological factors including altitude, population density, poultry density, as well as the shortest path distances to inland water, coastlines, routes followed by migrating birds, railways, and roads. This study seeks to lay a solid foundation for the inter-disciplinary study of this and other influenza outbreaks. It will provide substantive information for public health bodies with responsibility for containing H5N1 outbreaks.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series series.

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