• Assessing the performance of real-time epidemic forecasts: A case study of Ebola in the Western Area Region of Sierra Leone, 2014-15

      Funk, S; Camacho, A; Kucharski, AJ; Lowe, R; Eggo, RM; Edmunds, WJ (London School Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2018-11-23)
    • Highly targeted spatiotemporal interventions against cholera epidemics, 2000–19: a scoping review

      Ratnayake, R; Finger, F; Azman, AS; Lantagne, D; Funk, S; Edmunds, WJ; Checchi, F (Elsevier, 2020-10-20)
      Globally, cholera epidemics continue to challenge disease control. Although mass campaigns covering large populations are commonly used to control cholera, spatial targeting of case households and their radius is emerging as a potentially efficient strategy. We did a Scoping Review to investigate the effectiveness of interventions delivered through case-area targeted intervention, its optimal spatiotemporal scale, and its effectiveness in reducing transmission. 53 articles were retrieved. We found that antibiotic chemoprophylaxis, point-of-use water treatment, and hygiene promotion can rapidly reduce household transmission, and single-dose vaccination can extend the duration of protection within the radius of households. Evidence supports a high-risk spatiotemporal zone of 100 m around case households, for 7 days. Two evaluations separately showed reductions in household transmission when targeting case households, and in size and duration of case clusters when targeting radii. Although case-area targeted intervention shows promise for outbreak control, it is critically dependent on early detection capacity and requires prospective evaluation of intervention packages.
    • The Impact of Control Strategies and Behavioural Changes on the Elimination of Ebola from Lofa County, Liberia

      Funk, S; Ciglenecki, I; Tiffany, A; Gignoux, E; Camacho, A; Eggo, RM; Kucharski, AJ; Edmunds, WJ; Bolongei, J; Azuma, P; et al. (Royal Society Publishing, 2017-05-26)
      The Ebola epidemic in West Africa was stopped by an enormous concerted effort of local communities and national and international organizations. It is not clear, however, how much the public health response and behavioural changes in affected communities, respectively, contributed to ending the outbreak. Here, we analyse the epidemic in Lofa County, Liberia, lasting from March to November 2014, by reporting a comprehensive time line of events and estimating the time-varying transmission intensity using a mathematical model of Ebola transmission. Model fits to the epidemic show an alternation of peaks and troughs in transmission, consistent with highly heterogeneous spread. This is combined with an overall decline in the reproduction number of Ebola transmission from early August, coinciding with an expansion of the local Ebola treatment centre. We estimate that healthcare seeking approximately doubled over the course of the outbreak, and that isolation of those seeking healthcare reduced their reproduction number by 62% (mean estimate, 95% credible interval (CI) 59-66). Both expansion of bed availability and improved healthcare seeking contributed to ending the epidemic, highlighting the importance of community engagement alongside clinical intervention.This article is part of the themed issue 'The 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control'.
    • The impact of reactive mass vaccination campaigns on measles outbreaks in the Katanga region, Democratic Republic of Congo

      Funk, S; Takahashi, S; Hellewell, J; Gadroen, K; Carrion-Martin, I; van Lenthe, M; Rivette, K; Dietrich, S; Edmunds, WJ; Siddiqui, MR; et al. (2019-08-17)
      The Katanga region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been struck by repeated epidemics of measles, with large outbreaks occurring in 2010–13 and 2015. In many of the affected health zones, reactive mass vaccination campaigns were conducted in response to the outbreaks. Here, we attempted to determine how effective the vaccination campaigns in 2015 were in curtailing the ongoing outbreak. We further sought to establish whether the risk of large measles outbreaks in different health zones could have been determined in advance to help prioritise areas for vaccination campaign and speed up the response. In doing so, we first attempted to identify factors that could have been used in 2015 to predict in which health zones the greatest outbreaks would occur. Administrative vaccination coverage was not a good predictor of the size of outbreaks in different health zones. Vaccination coverage derived from surveys, on the other hand, appeared to give more reliable estimates of health zones of low vaccination coverage and, consequently, large outbreaks. On a coarser geographical scale, the provinces most affected in 2015 could be predicted from the outbreak sizes in 2010–13. This, combined with the fact that the vast majority of reported cases were in under-5 year olds, would suggest that there are systematic issues of undervaccination. If this was to continue, outbreaks would be expected to continue to occur in the affected health zones at regular intervals, mostly concentrated in under-5 year olds. We further used a model of measles transmission to estimate the impact of the vaccination campaigns, by first fitting a model to the data including the campaigns and then re-running this without vaccination. We estimated the reactive campaigns to have reduced the size of the overall outbreak by approximately 21,000 (IQR: 16,000–27,000; 95% CI: 8300–38,000) cases. There was considerable heterogeneity in the impact of campaigns, with campaigns started earlier after the start of an outbreak being more impactful. Taken together, these findings suggest that while a strong routine vaccination regime remains the most effective means of measles control, it might be possible to improve the effectiveness of reactive campaigns by considering predictive factors to trigger a more targeted vaccination response.
    • Real-time analysis of the diphtheria outbreak in forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh

      Finger, F; Funk, S; White, K; Siddiqui, MR; Edmunds, WJ; Kucharski, AJ (2019-03-12)
      Between August and December 2017, more than 625,000 Rohingya from Myanmar fled into Bangladesh, settling in informal makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar district and joining 212,000 Rohingya already present. In early November, a diphtheria outbreak hit the camps, with 440 reported cases during the first month. A rise in cases during early December led to a collaboration between teams from Médecins sans Frontières—who were running a provisional diphtheria treatment centre—and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with the goal to use transmission dynamic models to forecast the potential scale of the outbreak and the resulting resource needs. Methods We first adjusted for delays between symptom onset and case presentation using the observed distribution of reporting delays from previously reported cases. We then fit a compartmental transmission model to the adjusted incidence stratified by age group and location. Model forecasts with a lead time of 2 weeks were issued on 12, 20, 26 and 30 December and communicated to decision-makers. Results The first forecast estimated that the outbreak would peak on 19 December in Balukhali camp with 303 (95% posterior predictive interval 122–599) cases and would continue to grow in Kutupalong camp, requiring a bed capacity of 316 (95% posterior predictive interval (PPI) 197–499). On 19 December, a total of 54 cases were reported, lower than forecasted. Subsequent forecasts were more accurate: on 20 December, we predicted a total of 912 cases (95% PPI 367–2183) and 136 (95% PPI 55–327) hospitalizations until the end of the year, with 616 cases actually reported during this period. Conclusions Real-time modelling enabled feedback of key information about the potential scale of the epidemic, resource needs and mechanisms of transmission to decision-makers at a time when this information was largely unknown. By 20 December, the model generated reliable forecasts and helped support decision-making on operational aspects of the outbreak response, such as hospital bed and staff needs, and with advocacy for control measures. Although modelling is only one component of the evidence base for decision-making in outbreak situations, suitable analysis and forecasting techniques can be used to gain insights into an ongoing outbreak.
    • Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Superspreading Events in the 2014-2015 West Africa Ebola Epidemic

      Lau, MSY; Dalziel, BD; Funk, S; McClelland, A; Tiffany, A; Riley, S; Metcalf, CJE; Grenfell, BT (National Academy of Sciences, 2017-02-13)
      The unprecedented scale of the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa (2014-2015) has prompted an explosion of efforts to understand the transmission dynamics of the virus and to analyze the performance of possible containment strategies. Models have focused primarily on the reproductive numbers of the disease that represent the average number of secondary infections produced by a random infectious individual. However, these population-level estimates may conflate important systematic variation in the number of cases generated by infected individuals, particularly found in spatially localized transmission and superspreading events. Although superspreading features prominently in first-hand narratives of Ebola transmission, its dynamics have not been systematically characterized, hindering refinements of future epidemic predictions and explorations of targeted interventions. We used Bayesian model inference to integrate individual-level spatial information with other epidemiological data of community-based (undetected within clinical-care systems) cases and to explicitly infer distribution of the cases generated by each infected individual. Our results show that superspreaders play a key role in sustaining onward transmission of the epidemic, and they are responsible for a significant proportion ([Formula: see text]61%) of the infections. Our results also suggest age as a key demographic predictor for superspreading. We also show that community-based cases may have progressed more rapidly than those notified within clinical-care systems, and most transmission events occurred in a relatively short distance (with median value of 2.51 km). Our results stress the importance of characterizing superspreading of Ebola, enhance our current understanding of its spatiotemporal dynamics, and highlight the potential importance of targeted control measures.
    • Updated estimate of the duration of the meningo-encephalitic stage in gambiense human African trypanosomiasis

      Checchi, F; Funk, S; Chandramohan, D; Haydon, D T; Chappuis, F (BMC, 2015-07-04)
      The duration of the stages of HAT is an important factor in epidemiological studies and intervention planning. Previously, we published estimates of the duration of the haemo-lymphatic stage 1 and meningo-encephalitic stage 2 of the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), in the absence of treatment. Here we revise the estimate of stage 2 duration, computed based on data from Uganda and South Sudan, by adjusting observed infection prevalence for incomplete case detection coverage and diagnostic inaccuracy.