We analyzed data from a large chikungunya outbreak mediated by the mosquito Aedes albopictus in the Lazio region, Italy, consisting of 414 reported human cases between June and November 2017. Using dates of symptom onset, geographic coordinates of residence, and information from epidemiological questionnaires, we reconstructed transmission chains related to that outbreak.
The spatial spread of many mosquito-borne diseases occurs by focal spread at the scale of a few hundred meters and over longer distances due to human mobility. The relative contributions of different spatial scales for transmission of chikungunya virus require definition to improve outbreak vector control recommendations.
Evidence suggest that human mobility contributes to seeding a relevant number of secondary cases and new foci of transmission over several kilometers. Reactive vector control based on current guidelines might allow a significant number of secondary clusters in untreated areas, especially if the outbreak is not detected early. Existing policies and guidelines for control during outbreaks should recommend the prioritization of preventive measures in neighboring territories with known mobility flows to the main areas of transmission.
Focal spread (within 1 km) accounted for 54.9% of all cases, 15.8% were transmitted at a local scale (1-15 km) and the remaining 29.3% were exported from the main areas of chikungunya circulation in Lazio to longer distances such as Rome and other geographical areas. Seventy percent of focal infections (corresponding to 38% of the total 414 cases) were transmitted within a distance of 200 m (the buffer distance adopted by the national guidelines for insecticide spraying). Two main epidemic clusters were identified, with a radius expanding at a rate of 300-600 m per month. The majority of exported cases resulted in either sporadic or no further transmission in the region.