Spatial Determinants of Ebola Virus Disease Risk for the West African Epidemic

PLoS Currents: Outbreaks
[Accessed 1 April 2017]

Research Article
Spatial Determinants of Ebola Virus Disease Risk for the West African Epidemic
March 31, 2017 ·
Introduction: Although many studies have investigated the probability of Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks while other studies have simulated the size and speed of EVD outbreaks, few have investigated the environmental and population-level predictors of Ebola transmission once an outbreak is underway. Identifying strong predictors of transmission could help guide and target limited public health resources during an EVD outbreak. We examined several environmental and population-level demographic predictors of EVD risk from the West African epidemic. Methods: We obtained district-level estimates from the World Health Organization EVD case data, demographic indicators obtained from the Demographic and Health surveys, and satellite-derived temperature, rainfall, and land cover estimates. A Bayesian hierarchical Poisson model was used to estimate EVD risk and to evaluate the spatial variability explained by the selected predictors. Results: We found that districts had greater risk of EVD with increasing proportion of households not possessing a radio (RR 2.79, 0.90-8.78; RR 4.23, 1.16-15.93), increasing rainfall (RR 2.18; 0.66-7.20; 5.34, 1.20-23.90), and urban land cover (RR 4.87, 1.56-15.40; RR 5.74, 1.68-19.67). Discussion: The finding of radio ownership and reduced EVD transmission risk suggests that the use of radio messaging for control and prevention purposes may have been crucial in reducing the EVD transmission risk in certain districts, although this association requires further study. Future research should examine the etiologic relationships between the identified risk factors and human-to-human transmission of EVD with a focus on factors related to population mobility and healthcare accessibility, which are critical features of epidemic propagation and control.