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Pseudogymnoascus destructans, spatial dynamics of disease, network model

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White-nose syndrome has caused massive mortality in multiple bat species and spread across much of North America, making it one of the most destructive wildlife diseases on record. This has also resulted in it being one of the most well-documented wildlife disease outbreaks, making it possible to look for changes in the pattern of spatial spread over time. We fit a series of spatial interaction models to the United States county-level observations of the pathogenic fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that causes white-nose syndrome. Models included the distance between caves, cave abundance, measures of winter length and winter onset, and species richness of all bats and hibernating bats only. We found that the best supported models included all of these factors, but that the particular structure and most informative covariates changed over the course of the outbreak, with winter length displacing winter onset as the most informative measure of winter conditions, and evidence for the effects total species richness and hibernation varying from year to year. We also found that weather had detectable effects on spread. While the effect sizes for cave abundance and species richness were relatively stable over the length of the outbreak, distance became less important as time went on. These findings indicate that although models produced early in the outbreak captured important and consistent aspects of the spatial spread of white-nose syndrome, there were also changes over time in the factors associated with spread, suggesting that forecasts may be improved by iterative model refinement.

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bioRxiv, art. 428526