We describe a method based on time series analysis that divided the rabies enzootic area of southern Ontario into 13 regions using data collected at the township level, the smallest available geographical unit for Ontario (Canada). The intent was to discover ecogeographic patterns if such existed. For the period 1957–89, the quarterly time series of fox rabies cases for each of the 423 townships in the study area was correlated with the time series of its adjacent neighbors. Townships were then linked to adjacent townships provided the pair-wise correlations had significant correlation coefficients. This procedure produced 13 clusters that remained stable when additional lead/lag relationships between townships were examined. Furthermore, those clusters, which we then termed “rabies units,” had different behaviors in terms of species distribution, persistence, and periodicity. Time series in adjacent units were not synchronous. We discuss how our findings influenced the rabies control program in Ontario, how they relate to recent findings about the distribution of fox rabies virus subtypes, and how they lend support for the role of metapopulation structure in persistence of disease.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2