Spatial influences on Ebola and MERS epidemic dynamics: an agent-based modeling approach


For many communicable diseases, superspreaders are defined as specific infected individuals that transmit disproportionately to more susceptible individuals than other infected individuals, which may result from increased contact with susceptible individuals, higher pathogen shedding or increased strain virulence. For example, in 2015, one host infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea was responsible for 29 secondary infection and over 100 tertiary infections. Similarly, in the 2014 Ebola virus (EBOV) outbreak, superspreaders accounted for nearly two-thirds of Ebola cases. Epidemiological studies show that epidemics such as EBOV and MERS were largely driven and sustained by superspreaders that are ubiquitous throughout the outbreak. Hence understanding the dynamics of superspreaders can facilitate devising individually-targeted control measures. Studies have identified host heterogeneity (e.g., behavioral and immunological differences), population density and urbanization as underlying factors in disease outbreaks, therefore to capture disease transmission dynamics, we need a spatial modeling approach which can incorporate social phenomenons associated with human interactions. An agent-based model (ABM) is a computational model used for simulating the actions and interactions of autonomous agents (both individual or collective entities such as organizations or groups) with a view to assessing their effects on the system as a whole. Previously, ABMs have been used to study disease outbreaks, including identifying the local clustering and social characteristics that are considered essential for studying transmission dynamics. By using an ABM which incorporates individual movement dynamics, we propose an effective tool for public health agencies responsible for initiating early responses to potential pandemics. This work is done in collaboration with Linda J.S Allen, Christina Edholm, Anarina Murillo, Xueying Wang, Angela Peace, Nika Shakiba, and Blessing Emerenini.


Funding Source

American Institute of Mathematics - Structured Quartet Research Ensembles (SQuaREs)

Project Period