Balancing detection and eradication for control of epidemics: sudden oak death in mixed-species stands.
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Culling of infected individuals is a widely used measure for the control of several plant and animal pathogens but culling first requires detection of often cryptically-infected hosts. In this paper, we address the problem of how to allocate resources between detection and culling when the budget for disease management is limited. The results are generic but we motivate the problem for the control of a botanical epidemic in a natural ecosystem: sudden oak death in mixed evergreen forests in coastal California, in which species composition is generally dominated by a spreader species (bay laurel) and a second host species (coast live oak) that is an epidemiological dead-end in that it does not transmit infection but which is frequently a target for preservation. Using a combination of an epidemiological model for two host species with a common pathogen together with optimal control theory we address the problem of how to balance the allocation of resources for detection and epidemic control in order to preserve both host species in the ecosystem. Contrary to simple expectations our results show that an intermediate level of detection is optimal. Low levels of detection, characteristic of low effort expended on searching and detection of diseased trees, and high detection levels, exemplified by the deployment of large amounts of resources to identify diseased trees, fail to bring the epidemic under control. Importantly, we show that a slight change in the balance between the resources allocated to detection and those allocated to control may lead to drastic inefficiencies in control strategies. The results hold when quarantine is introduced to reduce the ingress of infected material into the region of interest.