American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene vol:82 issue:3 pages:492-500
A natural focus of plague exists in the Western Usambara Mountains of Tanzania. Despite intense research, questions remain as to why and how plague emerges repeatedly in the same suite of villages. We used human plague incidence data for 1986–2003 in an ecological-niche modeling framework to explore the geographic distribution and ecology of human plague. Our analyses indicate that plague occurrence is related directly to landscape-scale environmental features, yielding a predictive understanding of one set of environmental factors affecting plague transmission in East Africa. Although many environmental variables contribute significantly to these models, the most important are elevation and Enhanced Vegetation Index derivatives. Projections of these models across broader regions predict only 15.5% (under a majority-rule threshold) or 31,997 km2 of East Africa as suitable for plague transmission, but they successfully anticipate most known foci in the region, making possible the development of a risk map of plague.