Zoonotic Disease Detection and Prevention: Development of a Web-based, Mobile Application for Wildlife Disease Notification Utilizing Real-Time Reporting from Hunters and Trappers

Project Name: Zoonotic Disease Detection and Prevention: Development of a Web-based, Mobile Application for Wildlife Disease Notification Utilizing Real-Time Reporting from Hunters and Trappers

Project Status: Proposed

Point of Contact: Ryan M. Wallace

Center: NCEZID

Keywords: Zoonotic Diseases, Wildlife diseases, Rabies, Poxviruses

Project Description: : In 2011 a military service member died from undiagnosed viral encephalitis. The soldier’s organs were donated. Eighteen months later a recipient of one of his organs died from rabies. Retrospective investigation identified that the soldier had also died from rabies, thus identifying the cause of death as rabies transmitted by organ transplantation. Further investigation revealed that the soldier had likely acquired rabies while hunting raccoons in North Carolina.

Hunters, fur trappers and their domestic animals represent a population in the United States that are at increased risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases. An estimated 13.7 million people participated in hunting activities during 2011. The number of trappers is slightly more difficult to estimate, but around 250,000 persons in the United States derive at least a part of their income from trapping each year and this number may swell to as many as 750,000 persons in years where fur prices are high.

Recent systematic reviews of known human pathogens have suggested that more than 60% are zoonotic and that 75% of emerging diseases are zoonotic in origin. There remains a diversity of zoonotic diseases in North America. Bacterial zoonotic pathogens can result in a range of diseases such as: cat scratch disease, rat bite fever, E. coli, tularemia, brucellosis, and plague. These bacterial zoonotic pathogens are associated with a host of domestic species, livestock, and wildlife (e.g. rodents, opossums, skunks, and deer). Several parasitic zoonosis are noted in the literature particularly Baylisascaris procyonis (associated with raccoons), Cryptosporidium sp. and Trichinella sp. (wild and feral pigs), and hookworms. Viral zoonoses reported in North America include: hantavirus, influenza virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, and rabies.

The development of a web-based, mobile application designed to assist hunters in the recognition and reporting of diseased animals could help reduce the likelihood of zoonotic disease transmission and serve as an early wildlife disease detection system. The proposed mobile application would provide an interface in which hunters and trappers can report sick wildlife or wildlife exposures (bites, scratches, carcass processing injuries) immediately to the DNR, State Public Health, and CDC. Through user-friendly selection tools, the application will provide the user the ability to report the species of animal, the observed signs of illness, the location of the animal (GPS based), and any relevant medical exposures that may have occurred. This can include illnesses observed in alive animals, or unusual findings during processing of the animal. Prompts will be available to assist the user to recognize common wildlife and zoonotic diseases, as well as health messaging. Data would be housed within the state health department and the CDC Poxvirus and Rabies Branch. Information captured through this application would provide healthcare seeking information for exposures requiring immediate assistance. Data collected on diseased wildlife would be analyzed periodically to provide epidemiologic data on the health of wildlife and risks for those conducting activities involving wildlife interactions.

Public health departments have attempted to increase awareness about zoonotic diseases, but have primarily focused on interactions with domestic pets, particularly among persons with immunosuppressive conditions. Less evidence is available in the literature that focuses on health education for persons engaging in leisure activities like hunting and trapping. The population of hunters seems to be aging over time and has primarily shown a higher participation rate among persons living in rural areas. As a whole, persons who are older and live in rural areas may be more challenging to reach with traditional health promotion methods.

The proposed mobile application would not only serve as a surveillance collection tool, but also would provide a platform in which public health and wildlife management programs could distribute disease-prevention messages to the target audience. Mobile alerts can be issued to application users to improve zoonotic disease prevention, including but not limited to: alerts for suspected outbreaks of wildlife disease, seasonal and species-specific disease prevention messaging, and updates with general healthcare seeking educational messaging.

The beta version of this application would be created with zoonotic disease subject matter expertise from the CDC Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology and the North Carolina Department of Public Health and programmatic expertise from collaborations with the Georgia Institute for Technology. The beta version of the application would be designed for hunters and trappers in North Carolina, however, the platform will be designed so that minor adjustments to the user interface can be made to function in any state or jurisdiction and target other groups at high risk for zoonotic disease transmission including, but not limited to: animal control workers, veterinarians, and the National Parks Service. Metrics collected from this application will be used to evaluate its usefulness among the target population including: downloads, number of reports submitted, and number of recipients of educational materials.

For more information about this project, please contact the CHIIC at chiic@cdc.gov or Brian Lee at brian.lee@cdc.hhs.gov.

Page last reviewed: February 15, 2019