Researchers Document Dynamics of Superspreading Events in the 2014-2015 West Africa Ebola Epidemic

For many infections, some infected individuals transmit to disproportionately more susceptibles than others, a phenomenon referred to as “superspreading.” Understanding superspreading can facilitate devising individually targeted control measures, which may outperform population-level measures. Superspreading has been described for a recent Ebola virus (EBOV) outbreak, but systematic characterizations of its spatiotemporal dynamics are still lacking. Laua, et al. (2017) introduce a statistical framework that allows researchers to identify core characteristics of EBOV superspreading.

The reserchers found that the epidemic was largely driven and sustained by superspreadings that are ubiquitous throughout the outbreak and that age is an important demographic predictor for superspreading. The researchers say their results highlight the importance of control measures targeted at potential superspreaders and enhance understanding of causes and consequences of superspreading for EBOV.

Reference: Laua M, et al. Spatial and temporal dynamics of superspreading events in the 2014–2015 West Africa Ebola epidemic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1614595114