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Using decision analysis to support proactive management of emerging infectious wildlife diseases

May 15, 2017

Despite calls for improved responses to emerging infectious diseases in wildlife, management is seldom considered until a disease has been detected in affected populations. Reactive approaches may limit the potential for control and increase total response costs. An alternative, proactive management framework can identify immediate actions that reduce future impacts even before a disease is detected, and plan subsequent actions that are conditional on disease emergence. We identify four main obstacles to developing proactive management strategies for the newly discovered salamander pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). Given that uncertainty is a hallmark of wildlife disease management and that associated decisions are often complicated by multiple competing objectives, we advocate using decision analysis to create and evaluate trade-offs between proactive (pre-emergence) and reactive (post-emergence) management options. Policy makers and natural resource agency personnel can apply principles from decision analysis to improve strategies for countering emerging infectious diseases.