Title page for ETD etd-05292007-123917

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Dorrell, David
URN etd-05292007-123917
Title Understanding the New York Rabies Epizootic 1985-2005
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Andrew Curtis Committee Chair
Kam-biu Liu Committee Member
Martin Hugh-Jones Committee Member
Michael Kearney Committee Member
Fang-Ting Liang Dean's Representative
  • geography of disease
  • rabies media
  • rabies surveillance
Date of Defense 2007-04-24
Availability unrestricted
Surveillance data are an important part of medical geography. These data are used to produce much of the analyses that define the subdiscipline. It is understood that surveillance data may contain biases, but there have only been limited studies devoted to determining in what ways the data are not representative of actual disease prevalence.

New York was selected for this research for several reasons. First, it has a strong rabies data set. Second, it has a centralized system of licensing animal and dog control officers. Third, it is well-represented in terms of local media.

This dissertation attempts to better understand the New York rabies epizootic, using not only rabies surveillance data, but also data collected from animal control officers and media reports, particularly newspaper articles. These data can help provide a fuller picture of the function of a rabies epizootic within a state, particularly in terms of the relationship of the disease to the society at large.

The generation of surveillance data itself is not often the subject of investigation. One part of that system that receives little attention from researchers is the part that physically collects animals- animal and dog control officers. As the lowest level in the surveillance system, control officers are often overlooked in terms of their contribution to the system.

The media presentation of the rabies epizootic is the other subject of this work. The relationship between a disease and media reports of a disease are often not clear. In New York, reporting of rabies in local newspapers often reflected the submissions of suspicious animals for rabies testing.

This research found that the levels of training found in animal and dog control officers in New York were low considering that this was a state with epizootic rabies. The attitudes of the control officers revealed that as a group they considered themselves part of the public health system, but they were often not treated as such. The media investigation revealed that articles about rabies in small, local newspapers can reflect rabies submissions in the adjacent area. This was not true for larger newspapers.

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