Syndromic surveillance for West Nile virus using raptors in rehabilitation

Alba Ana, M. Perez Andrés, Ponder Julia, Puig Pedro, Arno Wuenschmann, Kimberly VanderWaal, Julio Alvarez, Michelle M Willette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Wildlife rehabilitation centers routinely gather health-related data from diverse species. Their capability to signal the occurrence of emerging pathogens and improve traditional surveillance remains largely unexplored. This paper assessed the utility for syndromic surveillance of raptors admitted to The Raptor Center (TRC) to signal circulation of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Minnesota between 1990 and 2014. An exhaustive descriptive analysis using grouping time series structures and models of interrupted times series was conducted for indicator subsets. Results: A total of 13,080 raptors were monitored. The most representative species were red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, Cooper's hawks, American kestrels and bald eagles. Results indicated that temporal patterns of accessions at the TRC changed distinctively after the incursion of WNV in 2002. The frequency of hawks showing WNV-like signs increased almost 3 times during July and August, suggesting that monitoring of hawks admitted to TRC with WNV-like signs could serve as an indicator of WNV circulation. These findings were also supported by the results of laboratory diagnosis. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that monitoring of data routinely collected by wildlife rehabilitation centers has the potential to signal the spread of pathogens that may affect wild, domestic animals and humans, thus supporting the early detection of disease incursions in a region and monitoring of disease trends. Ultimately, data collected in rehabilitation centers may provide insights to efficiently allocate financial and human resources on disease prevention and surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number368
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 29 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Minnesota Office of the Vice President for Research Grant-in-Aid Program. The contribution of Pedro Puig was partially funded by the grant MTM2015–69493-R from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Big data
  • Raptors
  • Syndromic surveillance
  • Time series
  • West Nile
  • Wildlife rehabilitation


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