Modeling the Epidemiology of Cholera to Prevent Disease Transmission in Developing Countries
Cholera remains an important global cause of morbidity and mortality, which is capable of causing periodic epidemic disease. A number of mathematical models have been developed to help in understanding the dynamics of cholera outbreaks and for use as a tool in planning interventions, including vaccination campaigns. We have explored the utility of models in assessing the spread of cholera in the recent epidemics in Zimbabwe and Haiti. In both instances, a mathematical model was formulated and fitted to cumulative cholera cases to estimate the basic reproductive number ℛ0, and the partial reproductive numbers reflecting potential differences in environmental-to-human versus human-to-human transmission were quantified. In Zimbabwe, estimated ℛ0 for the epidemic using aggregated data at the national level was 1.15; in Haiti, it was 1.55. However, when calculated at a provincial/departmental level, estimated basic reproductive numbers were highly heterogeneous, with a range of 1.11 to 2.72 in Zimbabwe and 1.06 to 2.63 in Haiti. Our models suggest that the underlying patterns of cholera transmission varied widely from region to region, with a corresponding variation in the amenability of outbreaks to control measures such as immunization. These data underscore the heterogeneity of transmission dynamics, potentially linked to differences in environment, socio-economic conditions, and cultural practices. They also highlight the potential utility of these types of models in guiding development of public health intervention strategies.
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