Title: Plague in tanzania - a landscape ecological approach
Authors: Neerinckx, Simon
Deckers, Jozef A.
Gulinck, Hubert
Kimaro, Didas
Laudisoit, Anne
Leirs, Herwig #
Issue Date: Feb-2010
Publisher: Mary ann liebert inc
Host Document: Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases vol:10 issue:1 pages:101-102
Conference: Symposium on the Ecology of Plague and Its Effects on Wildlife location:Fort Collins date:4-6 November 2009
Abstract: Plague remains a public health threat in many parts of the world, but particularly in
sub-Saharan Africa. In general, it occurs seasonally and shows a clear geographically
disjunct distribution in circumscribed foci. In spite of plague’s highly focal nature, the
underlying ecology remains often unknown and Ecological Niche Modeling suggests
that plague can occur in highly diverse landscapes under wide ranges of environmental
conditions (Neerinckx et al. in press). In 1980 a persistent focus of human plague was
discovered in Lushoto, northeastern Tanzania. By 2004 >7000 cases had been reported
from this region and a strong variation in plague frequency and incidence is seen
among neighboring villages in the plague endemic area (Davis et al. 2006). Earlier
studies, which focused mainly on the host-vector-parasite system, demonstrated that
this striking variation could not be explained by differences in fauna composition or
human domestic behavior. Therefore, landscape ecological factors are suspected to
determine plague’s local persistence and=or to act as disease-provoking factors. In the
present study, we report on the link between human plague incidence in Lushoto and
data on climate, landforms, land cover, soils and vegetation. We performed a comparative
field survey in a number of plague-positive and -negative villages in Lushoto
and gathered the collected information in a GIS database, including an elevation
model, weather data time series (rainfall and temperature), landform and land cover
descriptions, soil physical and chemical properties, and concentrations of chemical
elements in the common plant Rumex usambarensis. We found a positive correlation
between plague incidence and altitude, and the endemic plague area appeared to
coincide with an area that had been totally deforested in the early 1960s. Moreover,
first observations suggest that villages with a high plague incidence are connected
through typical fertile valley bottoms, i.e. Gleysols and Fluvisols, and that hamlets
(part of a village) in this valley bottom have had more human plague cases. Soil and
plant samples are being analyzed to test if factors that define the microclimate (in this
study, bulk density, soil texture, pH, and organic carbon, and concentrations of chemical
elements in soil and plant) are linked with plague occurrence in Lushoto. Our
results give an indication that a landscape ecological study approach can provide
insights into the persistence of plague and how its distribution can be affected by
landscape features, and therefore in this case, might open the track towards a better
understanding of the underlying ecology of plague’s distribution in Lushoto.
ISSN: 1530-3667
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Division Soil and Water Management
Division Forest, Nature and Landscape Research
# (joint) last author

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