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Smallpox transmission and control: spatial dynamics in Great Britain.

Abstract

Contingency planning for the possible deliberate reintroduction of smallpox has become a priority for many national public health organizations in recent years. We used an individual-based spatial model of smallpox transmission in Great Britain and census-derived journey-to-work data to accurately describe the spatiotemporal dynamics of an outbreak of smallpox in the community. A Markov chain Monte-Carlo algorithm was developed to generate sociospatial contact networks that were consistent with demographic and commuting data. We tested the sensitivity of model predictions to key epidemiological parameters before choosing three representative scenarios from within the range explored. We examined the spatiotemporal dynamics for these illustrative scenarios and assessed the efficacy of symptomatic case isolation, contact tracing with vaccination, and reactive regional mass vaccination as policy options for control. We conclude that case isolation and contact tracing with vaccination would be sufficient to halt ongoing transmission rapidly, unless policy effectiveness was compromised by resource or other constraints. A slight reduction in the expected size and duration of an outbreak could be achieved with regional mass vaccination, but these benefits are small and do not justify the high numbers of vaccine doses required and their associated negative side effects.

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