Downgrading disease transmission risk estimates using terminal importations

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Spencer J FoxLauren A Meyers


As emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases like dengue, Ebola, chikungunya, and Zika threaten new populations worldwide, officials scramble to assess local severity and transmissibility, with little to no epidemiological history to draw upon. Standard methods for assessing autochthonous (local) transmission risk make either indirect estimates based on ecological suitability or direct estimates only after local cases accumulate. However, an overlooked source of epidemiological data that can meaningfully inform risk assessments prior to outbreak emergence is the absence of transmission by imported cases. Here, we present a method for updating a priori ecological estimates of transmission risk using real-time importation data. We demonstrate our method using Zika importation and transmission data from Texas in 2016, a high-risk region in the southern United States. Our updated risk estimates are lower than previously reported, with only six counties in Texas likely to sustain a Zika epidemic, and consistent with the number of autochthonous cases detected in 2017. Importation events can thereby provide critical, early insight into local transmission risks as infectious diseases expand their global reach.

Related Concepts

Chikungunya virus
Dengue Fever
Disease Transmission
Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola
Zika virus (organism)
Population Group
Terminal (End Postition)

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