Identification of Suitable Areas for African Horse Sickness Virus Infections in Spanish Equine Populations

A. Sánchez-Matamoros, J. M. Sánchez-Vizcaíno, V. Rodríguez-Prieto, E. Iglesias, Beatriz Martinez Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


African horse sickness (AHS) is one of the most important vector-borne viral infectious diseases of equines, transmitted mainly by Culicoides spp. The re-emergence of Culicoides-borne diseases in Europe, such as the recent bluetongue (BT) or Schmallenberg outbreaks, has raised concern about the potential re-introduction and further spread of AHS virus (AHSV) in Europe. Spain has one of the largest European equine populations. In addition, its geographical, environmental and entomological conditions favour AHSV infections, as shown by the historical outbreaks in the 1990s. The establishment of risk-based surveillance strategies would allow the early detection and rapid control of any potential AHSV outbreak. This study aimed to identify the areas and time periods that are suitable or at high risk for AHS occurrence in Spain using a GIS-based multicriteria decision framework. Specifically risk maps for AHS occurrence were produced using a weighted linear combination of the main risk factors of disease, namely extrinsic incubation period, equine density and distribution of competent Culicoides populations. Model results revealed that the south-western and north-central areas of Spain and the Balearic Islands are the areas at the highest risk for AHSV infections, particularly in late summer months. Conversely, Galicia, Castile and Leon and La Rioja can be considered as low-risk regions. This result was validated with historical AHS and BT outbreaks in Spain, and with the Culicoides vector distribution area. The model results, together with current Spanish equine production features, should provide the foundations to design risk-based and more cost-effective surveillance strategies for the early detection and rapid control potential of AHS outbreaks in Spain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-573
Number of pages10
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • African horse sickness
  • risk mapping
  • risk-based surveillance
  • Spain
  • suitability maps
  • vector-borne disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)


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