Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2014

Role of Urbanization, Land-Use Diversity, and Livestock Intensification in Zoonotic Emerging Infectious Diseases

Sumeet Saksena, Jefferson Fox, Michael Epprecht, Chinh Tran, Miguel Castrence, Duong Nong, James Spencer, Nguyen Lam, Melissa Finucane, Tran Duc Vien, Bruce Wilco

October 2014

East-West Center


Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) continue to significantly threaten human and animal health. While there has been some progress in identifying underlying proximal driving forces and causal mechanisms of disease emergence, the role of distal factors is most poorly understood. This article focuses on analyzing the statistical association between highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 and urbanization, land-use diversity and poultry intensification. A special form of the urban transition—peri-urbanization—was hypothesized as being associated with ‘hot-spots’ of disease emergence. Novel metrics were used to characterize these distal risk factors. Our models, which combined these newly proposed risk factors with previously known natural and human risk factors, had a far higher predictive performance compared to published models for the first two epidemiological waves in Viet Nam. We found that when relevant risk factors are taken into account, urbanization is generally not a significant independent risk factor. However, urbanization spatially combines other risk factors leading to peri-urban places being the most likely ‘hot-spots’. The work highlights that peri-urban areas have highest levels of chicken density, duck and geese flock size diversity, fraction of land under rice, fraction of land under aquaculture compared to rural and urban areas. Land-use diversity, which has previously never been studied in the context of HPAI H5N1, was found to be a significant risk factor. Places where intensive and extensive forms of poultry production are collocated were found to be at greater risk