6 Mar 2013

Using Routine Surveillance Data to Estimate the Epidemic Potential of Emerging Zoonoses: Application to the Emergence of US Swine Origin Influenza A H3N2v Virus (PLoS Med., abstract, edited)

[Source: PLoS ONE, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Research Article

Using Routine Surveillance Data to Estimate the Epidemic Potential of Emerging Zoonoses: Application to the Emergence of US Swine Origin Influenza A H3N2v Virus

Simon Cauchemez, Scott Epperson, Matthew Biggerstaff, David Swerdlow, Lyn Finelli, Neil M. Ferguson

 

Abstract

Background

Prior to emergence in human populations, zoonoses such as SARS cause occasional infections in human populations exposed to reservoir species. The risk of widespread epidemics in humans can be assessed by monitoring the reproduction number R (average number of persons infected by a human case). However, until now, estimating R required detailed outbreak investigations of human clusters, for which resources and expertise are not always available. Additionally, existing methods do not correct for important selection and under-ascertainment biases. Here, we present simple estimation methods that overcome many of these limitations.

Methods and Findings

Our approach is based on a parsimonious mathematical model of disease transmission and only requires data collected through routine surveillance and standard case investigations. We apply it to assess the transmissibility of swine-origin influenza A H3N2v-M virus in the US, Nipah virus in Malaysia and Bangladesh, and also present a non-zoonotic example (cholera in the Dominican Republic). Estimation is based on two simple summary statistics, the proportion infected by the natural reservoir among detected cases (G) and among the subset of the first detected cases in each cluster (F). If detection of a case does not affect detection of other cases from the same cluster, we find that R can be estimated by 1−G; otherwise R can be estimated by 1−F when the case detection rate is low. In more general cases, bounds on R can still be derived.

Conclusions

We have developed a simple approach with limited data requirements that enables robust assessment of the risks posed by emerging zoonoses. We illustrate this by deriving transmissibility estimates for the H3N2v-M virus, an important step in evaluating the possible pandemic threat posed by this virus.

Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary

 

Editors' Summary

Background

When a virus emerges in the human population, such viruses can cause global epidemics potentially harming large numbers of people. Zoonotic viruses are viruses that are transmissible from animals to humans; the global health threat of zoonotic viruses was recently demonstrated by the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the SARS epidemic in 2003. Many zoonotic viruses are transmitted by means of an infected vector, while others can be transmitted by inhalation, contact with infected excretions, or by direct contact with an infected animal. Zoonotic viruses primarily cause occasional infections in human populations exposed to reservoir species (the animal species harboring the virus) because the pathogens are usually poorly adapted for sustained human-to-human transmission. However, zoonotic viruses are under strong selective pressure to acquire the ability for human-to-human transmission.

Why Was This Study Done?

The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza epidemic was alarming to many because of the high mortality rate in humans and its rapid spread in avian populations. Public health response to outbreaks such as those of H5N1 avian influenza and SARS required reliable estimates of transmissibility (how easily it spreads between people) and severity (the proportion of infected people who needed hospital treatment). For efficient prevention and control of the emerging epidemic, quantitative and rigorous assessment of the associated risks is needed. Specifically, health officials and researchers need fast, reliable methods for estimating the extent to which a virus has acquired the ability to transmit from person to person. In this study, the authors developed a novel method to estimate a standard measure of transmissibility, the human-to-human reproduction number R (average number of persons infected by a human case) of a zoonotic virus, which overcomes many of the limitations of existing methods.

What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

The authors developed a simple method to estimate the reproduction number of emerging zoonoses from routine surveillance data. By using two simple summary statistics, the proportion infected by the natural reservoir among detected cases (G) and among the subset of the first detected cases in each cluster (F), the authors estimated R, the reproduction number of zoonoses in humans. The authors then applied their new approach to assess the human-to-human transmissibility of swine-origin influenza A variant (H1N1v, H1N2v, and H3N2v) virus, in particular that of the H3N2v-M virus, from US surveillance data for the period December 2005–December 2011, Nipah virus in Malaysia and Bangladesh, as well as to a non-zoonotic pathogen Vibrio Cholerae in the Dominican Republic. This study demonstrates the applicability of this novel approach to estimating R during zoonotic and certain non-zoonotic outbreaks.

What Do These Findings Mean?

Cauchemez and colleagues show that their new approach will be useful in assessing human-to-human transmissions during zoonotic outbreaks. The authors show that their new method does not require as much of an investigation effort as existing methods, the statistical treatment of the data is extremely simple, and the robustness of the method is demonstrated even if larger clusters are more likely to be detected and if the ability to detect all cases in a cluster once a cluster is identified is low. This method of estimating R is designed for the context of subcritical outbreaks, i.e., R<1. However if R≥1, other estimation methods will be needed.

Additional Information

Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001399.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases provides information on infectious disease

The CDC also has resources for pandemic flu and H3N2v

The University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary medicine has an online tutorial on zoonotic diseases

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also provides comprehensive information on zoonotic diseases

 

Citation: Cauchemez S, Epperson S, Biggerstaff M, Swerdlow D, Finelli L, et al. (2013) Using Routine Surveillance Data to Estimate the Epidemic Potential of Emerging Zoonoses: Application to the Emergence of US Swine Origin Influenza A H3N2v Virus. PLoS Med 10(3): e1001399. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001399

Academic Editor: J.S. Malik Peiris, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Received: August 24, 2012; Accepted: January 24, 2013; Published: March 5, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 Cauchemez et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: The research leading to these results received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement n°278433-PREDEMICS, the European Union FP7 EMPERIE project, the NIGMS MIDAS initiative, the Medical Research Council, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: SC received consulting fees from Sanofi Pasteur MSD for a project on the modelling of varicella zoster virus transmission. The authors declare no other competing interests.

Abbreviations: CDC, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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