[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sizeable quantities of 2009 pandemic influenza A/H1N1 (H1N1pdm) vaccine in the USA became available at the end of 2009 when the autumn wave of the epidemic was declining. At that point, risk factors for H1N1-related mortality for some of the high-risk groups, particularly adults with underlying health conditions, could be estimated. Although those high-risk groups are natural candidates for being in the top priority tier for vaccine allocation, another candidate group is school-aged children through their role as vectors for transmission affecting the whole community. In this paper, we investigate the question of prioritization for vaccine allocation in a declining epidemic between two groups-a group with a high risk of mortality versus a 'core' group with a relatively low risk of mortality but fuelling transmission in the community. We show that epidemic data can be used, under certain assumptions on future decline, seasonality and vaccine efficacy in different population groups, to give a criterion when initial prioritization of a population group with a sufficiently high risk of epidemic-associated mortality is advisable over the policy of prioritizing the core group.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface 07/2012; 9(76):2798-803. · 4.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a coupled
ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific, which affects weather
conditions, including temperatures, precipitation, winds and storm
activity, across the planet. ENSO has two extreme phases marked by
either warmer (El Niño) or cooler (La Niña) than average
sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific. We find that
the 4 most recent human influenza pandemics (1918, 1957, 1968, 2009),
all of which were first identified in boreal spring or summer, were
preceded by La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific. Changes
in ENSO have been shown to alter the migration, stopover time, fitness
and interspecies mixing of migratory birds, and consequently likely
affect their mixing with domestic animals. We hypothesize that La
Niña conditions bring divergent influenza subtypes together in
some parts of the world and favor the reassortment of influenza through
simultaneous multiple infection of individual hosts and the generation
of novel pandemic strains. We propose approaches to test this hypothesis
using influenza population genetics, virus prevalence in various host
species, and avian migration patterns.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We describe a prioritization scheme for an allocation of a sizeable quantity of vaccine or antivirals in a stratified population. The scheme builds on an optimal strategy for reducing the epidemic's initial growth rate in a stratified mass-action model. The strategy is tested on the EpiSims network describing interactions and influenza dynamics in the population of Utah, where the stratification we have chosen is by age (0-6, 7-13, 14-18, adults). No prior immunity information is available, thus everyone is assumed to be susceptible-this may be relevant, possibly with the exception of persons over 50, to the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak. We have found that the top priority in an allocation of a sizeable quantity of seasonal influenza vaccinations goes to young children (0-6), followed by teens (14-18), then children (7-13), with the adult share being quite low. These results, which rely on the structure of the EpiSims network, are compared with the current influenza vaccination coverage levels in the US population.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface 10/2009; 7(46):755-64. · 4.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many of the studies on emerging epidemics (such as SARS and pandemic flu) use mass action models to estimate reproductive numbers and the needed control measures. In reality, transmission patterns are more complex due to the presence of various social networks. One level of complexity can be accommodated by considering a community of households. Our study of transmission dynamics in a community of households emphasizes five types of reproductive numbers for the epidemic spread: household-to-household reproductive number, leaky vaccine-associated reproductive numbers, perfect vaccine reproductive number, growth rate reproductive number, and the individual reproductive number. Each of those carries different information about the transmission dynamics and the required control measures, and often some of those can be estimated from the data while others cannot. Simulations have shown that under certain scenarios there is an ordering for those reproductive numbers. We have proven a number of ordering inequalities under general assumptions about the individual infectiousness profiles. Those inequalities allow, for instance, to estimate the needed vaccine coverage and other control measures without knowing the various transmission parameters in the models. Along the way, we have also shown that in choosing between increasing vaccine efficacy and increasing coverage levels by the same factor, preference should go to efficacy.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mathematical models of transmission have become invaluable management tools in planning for the control of emerging infectious diseases. A key variable in such models is the reproductive number R. For new emerging infectious diseases, the value of the reproductive number can only be inferred indirectly from the observed exponential epidemic growth rate r. Such inference is ambiguous as several different equations exist that relate the reproductive number to the growth rate, and it is unclear which of these equations might apply to a new infection. Here, we show that these different equations differ only with respect to their assumed shape of the generation interval distribution. Therefore, the shape of the generation interval distribution determines which equation is appropriate for inferring the reproductive number from the observed growth rate. We show that by assuming all generation intervals to be equal to the mean, we obtain an upper bound to the range of possible values that the reproductive number may attain for a given growth rate. Furthermore, we show that by taking the generation interval distribution equal to the observed distribution, it is possible to obtain an empirical estimate of the reproductive number.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 03/2007; 274(1609):599-604. · 5.68 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Much of the observed wintertime increase of mortality in temperate regions is attributed to seasonal influenza. A recent re-analysis of laboratory experiments indicates that absolute humidity strongly modulates the airborne survival and transmission of the influenza virus. Here we show that the onset of increased wintertime influenza-related mortality in the United States is associated with anomalously low absolute humidity levels during the prior weeks. We then use an epidemiological model, in which observed absolute humidity conditions temper influenza transmission rates, to successfully simulate the seasonal cycle of observed influenza-related mortality. The model results indicate that direct modulation of influenza transmissibility by absolute humidity alone is sufficient to produce this observed seasonality. These findings provide epidemiological support for the hypothesis that absolute humidity drives seasonal variations of influenza transmission in temperate regions. In addition, we show that variations of the basic and effective reproductive numbers for influenza, caused by seasonal changes in absolute humidity, are consistent with the general timing of pandemic influenza outbreaks observed for 2009 A/H1N1 in temperate regions. Indeed, absolute humidity conditions correctly identify the region of the United States vulnerable to a third, wintertime wave of pandemic influenza. These findings suggest that the timing of pandemic influenza outbreaks is controlled by a combination of absolute humidity conditions, levels of susceptibility and changes in population mixing and contact rates.