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Concept: Outbreak

197

Understanding Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) transmission is essential to guide efficient tuberculosis control strategies. Traditional strain typing lacks sufficient discriminatory power to resolve large outbreaks. Here, we tested the potential of using next generation genome sequencing for identification of outbreak-related transmission chains.

Concepts: DNA, Epidemiology, Molecular biology, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Outbreak, Shotgun sequencing

183

The spatiotemporal evolution of human mobility and the related fluctuations of population density are known to be key drivers of the dynamics of infectious disease outbreaks. These factors are particularly relevant in the case of mass gatherings, which may act as hotspots of disease transmission and spread. Understanding these dynamics, however, is usually limited by the lack of accurate data, especially in developing countries. Mobile phone call data provide a new, first-order source of information that allows the tracking of the evolution of mobility fluxes with high resolution in space and time. Here, we analyze a dataset of mobile phone records of ∼150,000 users in Senegal to extract human mobility fluxes and directly incorporate them into a spatially explicit, dynamic epidemiological framework. Our model, which also takes into account other drivers of disease transmission such as rainfall, is applied to the 2005 cholera outbreak in Senegal, which totaled more than 30,000 reported cases. Our findings highlight the major influence that a mass gathering, which took place during the initial phase of the outbreak, had on the course of the epidemic. Such an effect could not be explained by classic, static approaches describing human mobility. Model results also show how concentrated efforts toward disease control in a transmission hotspot could have an important effect on the large-scale progression of an outbreak.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Infectious diseases, Pandemic, Mobile phone, Cholera, Outbreak

170

Research studies show that social media may be valuable tools in the disease surveillance toolkit used for improving public health professionals' ability to detect disease outbreaks faster than traditional methods and to enhance outbreak response. A social media work group, consisting of surveillance practitioners, academic researchers, and other subject matter experts convened by the International Society for Disease Surveillance, conducted a systematic primary literature review using the PRISMA framework to identify research, published through February 2013, answering either of the following questions: Can social media be integrated into disease surveillance practice and outbreak management to support and improve public health?Can social media be used to effectively target populations, specifically vulnerable populations, to test an intervention and interact with a community to improve health outcomes?Examples of social media included are Facebook, MySpace, microblogs (e.g., Twitter), blogs, and discussion forums. For Question 1, 33 manuscripts were identified, starting in 2009 with topics on Influenza-like Illnesses (n = 15), Infectious Diseases (n = 6), Non-infectious Diseases (n = 4), Medication and Vaccines (n = 3), and Other (n = 5). For Question 2, 32 manuscripts were identified, the first in 2000 with topics on Health Risk Behaviors (n = 10), Infectious Diseases (n = 3), Non-infectious Diseases (n = 9), and Other (n = 10).

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Infection, Non-infectious disease, Outbreak, Facebook

169

BACKGROUND: There is an increasing need for processing and understanding relevant information generated by the systematic collection of public health data over time. However, the analysis of those time series usually requires advanced modeling techniques, which are not necessarily mastered by staff, technicians and researchers working on public health and epidemiology. Here a user-friendly tool, EPIPOI, is presented that facilitates the exploration and extraction of parameters describing trends, seasonality and anomalies that characterize epidemiological processes. It also enables the inspection of those parameters across geographic regions. Although the visual exploration and extraction of relevant parameters from time series data is crucial in epidemiological research, until now it had been largely restricted to specialists. METHODS: EPIPOI is freely available software developed in Matlab (The Mathworks Inc) that runs both on PC and Mac computers. Its friendly interface guides users intuitively through useful comparative analyses including the comparison of spatial patterns in temporal parameters. RESULTS: EPIPOI is able to handle complex analyses in an accessible way. A prototype has already been used to assist researchers in a variety of contexts from didactic use in public health workshops to the main analytical tool in published research. CONCLUSIONS: EPIPOI can assist public health officials and students to explore time series data using a broad range of sophisticated analytical and visualization tools. It also provides an analytical environment where even advanced users can benefit by enabling a higher degree of control over model assumptions, such as those associated with detecting disease outbreaks and pandemics.

Concepts: Public health, Health, Epidemiology, Time series, Biostatistics, Outbreak, The MathWorks, MATLAB

101

In the weeks following the first imported case of Ebola in the U. S. on September 29, 2014, coverage of the very limited outbreak dominated the news media, in a manner quite disproportionate to the actual threat to national public health; by the end of October, 2014, there were only four laboratory confirmed cases of Ebola in the entire nation. Public interest in these events was high, as reflected in the millions of Ebola-related Internet searches and tweets performed in the month following the first confirmed case. Use of trending Internet searches and tweets has been proposed in the past for real-time prediction of outbreaks (a field referred to as “digital epidemiology”), but accounting for the biases of public panic has been problematic. In the case of the limited U. S. Ebola outbreak, we know that the Ebola-related searches and tweets originating the U. S. during the outbreak were due only to public interest or panic, providing an unprecedented means to determine how these dynamics affect such data, and how news media may be driving these trends.

Concepts: Scientific method, Public health, Epidemiology, Music, Outbreak, Mass media, Journalism, News media

75

Ebola virus causes a severe haemorrhagic fever in humans with high case fatality and significant epidemic potential. The 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa was unprecedented in scale, being larger than all previous outbreaks combined, with 28 646 reported cases and 11 323 reported deaths. It was also unique in its geographical distribution and multicountry spread. It is vital that the lessons learned from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak are not lost. This article aims to provide a detailed description of the evolution of the outbreak. We contextualize this outbreak in relation to previous Ebola outbreaks and outline the theories regarding its origins and emergence. The outbreak is described by country, in chronological order, including epidemiological parameters and implementation of outbreak containment strategies. We then summarize the factors that led to rapid and extensive propagation, as well as highlight the key successes, failures and lessons learned from this outbreak and the response.This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Africa, Ebola, Marburg virus, Epidemic, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Outbreak

59

Whole-genome sequencing of pathogens from host samples becomes more and more routine during infectious disease outbreaks. These data provide information on possible transmission events which can be used for further epidemiologic analyses, such as identification of risk factors for infectivity and transmission. However, the relationship between transmission events and sequence data is obscured by uncertainty arising from four largely unobserved processes: transmission, case observation, within-host pathogen dynamics and mutation. To properly resolve transmission events, these processes need to be taken into account. Recent years have seen much progress in theory and method development, but existing applications make simplifying assumptions that often break up the dependency between the four processes, or are tailored to specific datasets with matching model assumptions and code. To obtain a method with wider applicability, we have developed a novel approach to reconstruct transmission trees with sequence data. Our approach combines elementary models for transmission, case observation, within-host pathogen dynamics, and mutation, under the assumption that the outbreak is over and all cases have been observed. We use Bayesian inference with MCMC for which we have designed novel proposal steps to efficiently traverse the posterior distribution, taking account of all unobserved processes at once. This allows for efficient sampling of transmission trees from the posterior distribution, and robust estimation of consensus transmission trees. We implemented the proposed method in a new R package phybreak. The method performs well in tests of both new and published simulated data. We apply the model to five datasets on densely sampled infectious disease outbreaks, covering a wide range of epidemiological settings. Using only sampling times and sequences as data, our analyses confirmed the original results or improved on them: the more realistic infection times place more confidence in the inferred transmission trees.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epidemiology, Cancer, Infectious disease, Infection, Statistical inference, Bayes' theorem, Outbreak

55

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is transmitted through the bite of Aedes spp mosquitoes and less predominantly, through sexual intercourse. Prior to 2007, ZIKV was associated with only sporadic human infections with minimal or no clinical manifestations. Recently the virus has caused disease outbreaks from the Pacific Islands, the Americas, and off the coast of West Africa with approximately 1.62 million people suspected to be infected in more than 60 countries around the globe. The recent ZIKV outbreaks have been associated with guillain-barré syndrome, congenital syndrome (microcephaly, congenital central nervous system anomalies), miscarriages, and even death. This review summarizes the path of ZIKV outbreak within the last decade, highlights three novel modes of ZIKV transmission associated with recent outbreaks, and points to the hallmarks of congenital syndrome. The review concludes with a summary of challenges facing ZIKV research especially the control of ZIKV infection in the wake of most recent data showing that anti-dengue virus antibodies enhance ZIKV infection.

Concepts: AIDS, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Disease, Infection, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Outbreak

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Elizabethkingia meningoseptica is an infrequent colonizer of the respiratory tract; its pathogenicity is uncertain. In the context of a 22-month outbreak of E. meningoseptica acquisition affecting 30 patients in a London, UK, critical care unit (3% attack rate) we derived a measure of attributable morbidity and determined whether E. meningoseptica is an emerging nosocomial pathogen. We found monomicrobial E. meningoseptica acquisition (n = 13) to have an attributable morbidity rate of 54% (systemic inflammatory response syndrome >2, rising C-reactive protein, new radiographic changes), suggesting that E. meningoseptica is a pathogen. Epidemiologic and molecular evidence showed acquisition was water-source-associated in critical care but identified numerous other E. meningoseptica strains, indicating more widespread distribution than previously considered. Analysis of changes in gram-negative speciation rates across a wider London hospital network suggests this outbreak, and possibly other recently reported outbreaks, might reflect improved diagnostics and that E. meningoseptica thus is a pseudo-emerging pathogen.

Concepts: Inflammation, Epidemiology, Pneumonia, Measurement, Systemic inflammatory response syndrome, Linguistics, C-reactive protein, Outbreak

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In global disease outbreaks, there are significant time delays between the source of an outbreak and collective action. Some delay is necessary, but recent delays have been extended by insufficient surveillance capacity and time-consuming efforts to mobilize action. Three public health emergencies of international concern (PHEICs)-H1N1, Ebola, and Zika-allow us to identify and compare sources of delays and consider seven hypotheses about what influences the length of delays. These hypotheses can then motivate further research that empirically tests them. The three PHEICs suggest that deferred global mobilization is a greater source of delay than is poor surveillance capacity. These case study outbreaks support hypotheses that we see quicker responses for novel diseases when outbreaks do not coincide with holidays and when US citizens are infected. They do not support hypotheses that we see quicker responses for more severe outbreaks or those that threaten larger numbers of people. Better understanding the reason for delays can help target policy interventions and identify the kind of global institutional changes needed to reduce the spread and severity of future PHEICs. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print January 18, 2018: e1-e5. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304245).

Concepts: Scientific method, Epidemiology, Disease, Poverty, Empiricism, Source, Outbreak