Hierarchical epidemiology: the spread and persistence of infectious diseases in complex landscapes

Hampson, Cleaveland, Lembo, Quince & Biek

To explain patterns of disease spread and persistence and to develop effective control policies it is vital to understand the process of transmission. For example, particular individuals are often disproportionately responsible for transmission, while landscape characteristics like rivers impede the spread of some diseases. Transmission of rabies can be tracked using contact tracing due to the memorable and discrete nature of infectious bites, providing a uniquely detailed picture of disease spread. I will apply statistical models to extensive rabies transmission data to investigate processes governing disease spread and persistence and how these are affected by population structure, physical geography and vaccination effort.

Viruses like rabies mutate at such high rates that infection can be tracked between individuals with genetic data. I will develop statistical methodologies for combining spatial and temporal data on rabies cases with viral genetic sequences to reconstruct infection pathways. A suite of models will be used to investigate how transmission propagates and results in the spatiotemporal patterns we observe and the impacts of large-scale dog vaccination programs in different settings in Africa and Asia. Alternative control scenarios, outbreak response, and containment strategies will be explored to provide relevant feedback directly to these programs that aim for elimination.