Mapping Disease

By Jeff Franklin, the 2017 mAGazine

Jacqueline Smith. Maps can be found at

Jacqueline Smith. Maps can be found at

Jacqueline Smith, PhD '12, epidemiologist at UK's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has created digital maps of reported rabies cases in Kentucky. Smith is putting to use the knowledge she has acquired as an epidemiologist and in her studies in geographic information systems, or GIS mapping.

Almost 30,000 animals have been tested for rabies in the state over the past 25 years, with only 707 positive cases, mostly from skunks and bats. Rabies in domestic animals is rare. The Kentucky departments of Fish and Wildlife and Public Health contribute to the surveillance by testing deer, raccoons, and other wildlife.

"It shows the state does an extensive job of surveillance for rabies to protect the public health," Smith said. "We all collaborate to foster the idea of 'one health' in Kentucky."

Smith has also started mapping several bovine and equine diseases or their causative agents. So far, she has mapped bovine viral diarrhea, bovine leukemia virus, anaplasmosis, bluetongue, wobblers disease, streptococcus equi, and Johnes disease.

"The cool thing about these maps is they update automatically as we get new cases," Smith said. "We protect our clients' confidentiality by mapping based on the county of the submitting veterinarian, so no identifying information is given out."

Producers visiting the maps can get an idea of what disease is going on in their area and modify treatments or vaccines accordingly.