Protective Population Behavior Change in Outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Disease


During outbreaks of emerging infections, the lack of effective drugs and vaccines increases reliance on non-pharmacologic public health interventions and behavior change to limit human-to-human transmission. Interventions that increase the speed with which infected individuals remove themselves from the susceptible population are paramount, particularly isolation and hospitalization. Ebola virus disease (EVD), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are zoonotic viruses that have caused significant recent outbreaks with sustained human-to-human transmission. This investigation quantified changing mean removal rates (MRR) and days from symptom onset to hospitalization (DSOH) of infected individuals from the population in seven different outbreaks of EVD, SARS, and MERS, to test for statistically significant differences in these metrics between outbreaks. We found that epidemic week and viral serial interval were correlated with the speed with which populations developed and maintained health behaviors in each outbreak.

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