A dynamic model of the spatial spread of an infectious disease: The case of fox rabies in Illinois

Brian Deal, Cheryl Farello, Mary Lancaster, Thomas Kompare, Bruce Hannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A spatially explicit computer model is developed to examine the dynamic spread of fox rabies across the state of Illinois and to evaluate possible disease control strategies. The ultimate concern is that the disease will spread from foxes to humans through the pet population. Modeling the population dynamics of rabies in foxes requires comprehensive ecological and biological knowledge of the fox and pathogenesis of the rabies virus. Variables considered including population densities, fox biology, home ranges, dispersal rates, contact rates, and incubation periods, can greatly effect the spread of disease. Accurate reporting of these variables is paramount for realistic construction of a spatial model. The spatial modeling technique utilized is a grid-based approach that combines the relevant geographic condition of the Illinois landscape (typically described in a georeferenced database system) with a nonlinear dynamic model of the phenomena of interest in each cell, interactively connected to the other appropriate cells (usually adjacent ones). The resulting spatial model graphically links data obtained from previous models, fox biology, rabies information and landscape parameters using various hierarchical scales and makes it possible to follow the emergent patterns and facilitates experimental stimulus/result data collection techniques. Results of the model indicate that the disease would likely spread among the native healthy fox population from East to West and would occur in epidemiological waves radiating from the point of introduction; becoming endemic across the State in about 15 years. Findings also include the realization that while current hunting pressures can potentially wipe out the fox in the State, some level of hunting pressure can be effectively utilized to help control the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Modeling and Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Biological modeling
  • Dynamic modeling
  • Spatial modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A dynamic model of the spatial spread of an infectious disease: The case of fox rabies in Illinois'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this