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TECHNICAL SESSION: Indirect Measurement of Disease Development / Spread

Perfect storms: tropical cyclones and their effects on pathogen invasion and saturation
Robin Choudhury - Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. Daniel Carrillo- University of Florida - Tropical Research and Education Center, Lukasz Stelinski- University of Florida, Randy Ploetz- University of Florida - Tropical Research and Education Center, Karen Garrett- Plant Pathology Department, University o

Tropical cyclones affect agriculture by disrupting infrastructure, directly damaging plants, altering pathogen-vector community dynamics, and dispersing pathogens and pests between distant regions. Understanding the spread of pathogens is critical for improved monitoring and risk assessment, and for preventing and responding to new outbreaks. We analyzed historic cyclone path data from the Atlantic basin to understand which countries are connected by storms and which areas are most frequently affected. We found that cyclones connected countries in three main groups: Central America, the Caribbean islands, and greater Atlantic countries. These connections suggest that pathogen spread due to storms may be more common within a region. We also found that parts of the southeastern US were more frequently affected by cyclones compared with Caribbean countries, although this may be offset by the increased severity of storms affecting islands. We modeled the impact of reduced host availability and increased vector activity using an epidemiological model of laurel wilt disease. We found that the impacts of increased vector activity were more important than reduced host availability for determining disease incidence, likely due to the aggregation of avocado groves in south Florida. This model suggests how the effects of storms may be pathosystem-specific, and that spread of pathogens between regions may be aggregated due to storm path.