Candeloro, L; Ippoliti, C; Iapaolo, F; Monaco, F; Morelli, D; Cuccu, R; Fronte, P; Calderara, S; Vincenzi, S; Porrello, A; D'Alterio, N; Calistri, P; Conte, A (2020). Predicting WNV Circulation in Italy Using Earth Observation Data and Extreme Gradient Boosting Model. REMOTE SENSING, 12(18), 3064.

West Nile Disease (WND) is one of the most spread zoonosis in Italy and Europe caused by a vector-borne virus. Its transmission cycle is well understood, with birds acting as the primary hosts and mosquito vectors transmitting the virus to other birds, while humans and horses are occasional dead-end hosts. Identifying suitable environmental conditions across large areas containing multiple species of potential hosts and vectors can be difficult. The recent and massive availability of Earth Observation data and the continuous development of innovative Machine Learning methods can contribute to automatically identify patterns in big datasets and to make highly accurate identification of areas at risk. In this paper, we investigated the West Nile Virus (WNV) circulation in relation to Land Surface Temperature, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and Surface Soil Moisture collected during the 160 days before the infection took place, with the aim of evaluating the predictive capacity of lagged remotely sensed variables in the identification of areas at risk for WNV circulation. WNV detection in mosquitoes, birds and horses in 2017, 2018 and 2019, has been collected from the National Information System for Animal Disease Notification. An Extreme Gradient Boosting model was trained with data from 2017 and 2018 and tested for the 2019 epidemic, predicting the spatio-temporal WNV circulation two weeks in advance with an overall accuracy of 0.84. This work lays the basis for a future early warning system that could alert public authorities when climatic and environmental conditions become favourable to the onset and spread of WNV.