Evidence-based controls for epidemics using spatio-temporal stochastic models in a Bayesian framework.20 Jul 2018
The control of highly infectious diseases of agricultural and plantation crops and livestock represents a key challenge in epidemiological and ecological modelling, with implemented control strategies often being controversial. Mathematical models, including the spatio-temporal stochastic models considered here, are playing an increasing role in the design of control as agencies seek to strengthen the evidence on which selected strategies are based. Here, we investigate a general approach to informing the choice of control strategies using spatio-temporal models within the Bayesian framework. We illustrate the approach for the case of strategies based on pre-emptive removal of individual hosts. For an exemplar model, using simulated data and historic data on an epidemic of Asiatic citrus canker in Florida, we assess a range of measures for prioritizing individuals for removal that take account of observations of an emerging epidemic. These measures are based on the potential infection hazard a host poses to susceptible individuals (hazard), the likelihood of infection of a host (risk) and a measure that combines both the hazard and risk (threat). We find that the threat measure typically leads to the most effective control strategies particularly for clustered epidemics when resources are scarce. The extension of the methods to a range of other settings is discussed. A key feature of the approach is the use of functional-model representations of the epidemic model to couple epidemic trajectories under different control strategies. This induces strong positive correlations between the epidemic outcomes under the respective controls, serving to reduce both the variance of the difference in outcomes and, consequently, the need for extensive simulation.