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Semi-quantitative assessment of disease risks at the human, livestock, wildlife interface for the Republic of Korea using a nationwide survey of experts: A model for other countries

September 28, 2017

Wildlife-associated diseases and pathogens have increased in importance; however, management of a large number of diseases and diversity of hosts is prohibitively expensive. Thus, the determination of priority wildlife pathogens and risk factors for disease emergence is warranted. We used an online questionnaire survey to assess release and exposure risks, and consequences of wildlife-associated diseases and pathogens in the Republic of Korea (ROK). We also surveyed opinions on pathways for disease exposure, and risk factors for disease emergence and spread. For the assessment of risk, we employed a two-tiered, statistical K-means clustering algorithm to group diseases into three levels (high, medium and low) of perceived risk based on release and exposure risks, societal consequences and the level of uncertainty of the experts’ opinions. To examine the experts’ perceived risk of routes of introduction of pathogens and disease amplification and spread, we used a Bayesian, multivariate normal order-statistics model. Six diseases or pathogens, including four livestock and two wildlife diseases, were identified as having high risk with low uncertainty. Similarly, 13 diseases were characterized as having high risk with medium uncertainty with three of these attributed to livestock, six associated with human disease, and the remainder having the potential to affect human, livestock and wildlife (i.e., One Health). Lastly, four diseases were described as high risk with high certainty, and were associated solely with fish diseases. Experts identified migration of wildlife, international human movement and illegal importation of wildlife as the three routes posing the greatest risk of pathogen introduction into ROK. Proximity of humans, livestock and wildlife was the most significant risk factor for promoting the spread of wildlife-associated diseases and pathogens, followed by high density of livestock populations, habitat loss and environmental degradation, and climate change. This study provides useful information to decision makers responsible for allocating resources to address disease risks. This approach provided a rapid, cost-effective method of risk assessment of wildlife-associated diseases and pathogens for which the published literature is sparse.