, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 255-266

Landscape structure influences continental distribution of hantavirus in deer mice

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We hypothesized that landscape structure affects movement of individuals through the landscape, which affects the rate and pattern of disease transmission. Based on this hypothesis, we predicted a relationship between landscape structure and disease incidence in spatially structured populations. We tested this prediction for hantavirus incidence in deer mice (Penomysens moniculatus), using a novel index of habitat fragmentation for transect data. A series of four stepwise logistic regression analyses were conducted on serological and ecological data from 2837 mice from 101 sites across Canada. The significant variables, ranked in decreasing order of size of their effect on virus incidence were: human buildings, landscape composition (amount of deer mouse habitat in the 1-km radius landscape surrounding each site), landscape configuration (fragmentation of deer mouse habitat in the 1-km radius landscape surrounding each site), mean annual temperature, and seasonal variation. Our results suggest that epidemiological models should consider not only the demographic structure of the host population, but its spatial structure as well, as inferred from landscape structure. Landscape structure can have a greater effect on the pattern of distribution of a virus in its host population than other ecological variables such as climate and seasonal change. The usefulness of landscape data in epidemiological models depends on the use of the appropriate spatial scale, which can be determined empirically. Epidemiological models with a spatially structured host population can benefit from the explicit consideration of landscape structure.