Raccoon social networks and the potential for disease transmission

Hirsch, Ben T., Prange, Suzanne, Hauver, Stephanie A., and Gehrt, Stanley D. (2013) Raccoon social networks and the potential for disease transmission. PLoS ONE, 8 (10).

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Abstract

Raccoons are an important vector of rabies and other pathogens. The degree to which these pathogens can spread through a raccoon population should be closely linked to association rates between individual raccoons. Most studies of raccoon sociality have found patterns consistent with low levels of social connectivity within populations, thus the likelihood of direct pathogen transmission between raccoons is theoretically low. We used proximity detecting collars and social network metrics to calculate the degree of social connectivity in an urban raccoon population for purposes of estimating potential pathogen spread. In contrast to previous assumptions, raccoon social association networks were highly connected, and all individuals were connected to one large social network during 15 out of 18 months of study. However, these metrics may overestimate the potential for a pathogen to spread through a population, as many of the social connections were based on relatively short contact periods. To more closely reflect varying probabilities of pathogen spread, we censored the raccoon social networks based on the total amount of time spent in close proximity between two individuals per month. As this time criteria for censoring the social networks increased from one to thirty minutes, corresponding measures of network connectivity declined. These findings demonstrate that raccoon populations are much more tightly connected than would have been predicted based on previous studies, but also point out that additional research is needed to calculate more precise transmission probabilities by infected individuals, and determine how disease infection changes normal social behaviors.

Item ID: 44222
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Additional Information:

© 2013 Hirsch et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ISSN: 1932-6203
Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF), Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation
Projects and Grants: NSF ID-0425203
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2016 04:03
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0707 Veterinary Sciences > 070704 Veterinary Epidemiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960414 Control of Plant Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 100%
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