A wind density model to quantify the airborne spread of culicoides species

G. Hendrickx, M. Gilbert, C. Staubach, A.R.W. Elbers, K. Mintiens, G. Gerbier, E. Ducheyne

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    94 Citations (Scopus)


    Increased transport and trade as well as climate shifts play an important role in the introduction, establishment and spread of new pathogens. Arguably, the introduction of bluetongue virus (BTV) serotype 8 in Benelux, Germany and France in 2006 is such an example. After its establishment in receptive local vector and host populations the continued spread of such a disease in a suitable environment will mainly depend on movement of infected vectors and animals. In this paper we explore how wind models can contribute to explain the spread of BTV in a temperate eco-climatic setting. Based on previous work in Greece and Bulgaria filtered wind density maps were computed using data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Six hourly forward wind trajectories were computed at pressure levels of 850 hPa for each infected farm as from the recorded onset of symptoms. The trajectories were filtered to remove wind events that do not contribute to possible spread of the vector. The suitable wind events were rastered and aggregated on a weekly basis to obtain weekly wind density maps. Next to this, cumulated wind density maps were also calculated to assess the overall impact of wind dispersal of vectors. A strong positive correlation was established between wind density data and the horizontal asymmetrical spread pattern of the 2006 BTV8 epidemic. It was shown that short (31 km) distance spread had a different impact on disease spread. Computed wind densities were linked to the medium/long-distance spread whilst short range spread was mainly driven by active Culicoides flight. Whilst previous work in the Mediterranean basin showed that wind driven spread of Culicoides over sea occurred over distances of up to 700 km, this phenomenon was not observed over land. Long-distance spread over land followed a hopping pattern, i.e. with intermediary stops and establishment of local virus circulation clusters at distances of 35¿85 km. Despite suitable wind densities, no long range spread was recorded over distances of 300¿400 km. Factors preventing spread Eastwards to the UK and Northwards to Denmark during the 2006 epidemic are discussed. Towards the east both elevation and terrain roughness, causing air turbulences and drop down of Culicoides, were major factors restricting spread. It is concluded that the proposed approach opens new avenues for understanding the spread of vector-borne viruses in Europe. Future developments should take into consideration both physical and biological factors affecting spread.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)162-181
    JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • possible windborne spread
    • mouth-disease virus
    • united-kingdom
    • air streams
    • vectors
    • ceratopogonidae
    • identification
    • diptera
    • surveillance
    • serotype-2

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