Mapping potential amplification and transmission hotspots for MERS-CoV, Kenya

17 Apr 2018

Dromedary camels have been implicated consistently as the source of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) human infections and attention to prevent and control it has focused on camels. To understanding the epidemiological role of camels in the transmission of MERS-CoV, we utilized an iterative empirical process in Geographic Information System (GIS) to identify and qualify potential hotspots for maintenance and circulation of MERS-CoV, and produced risk-based surveillance sites in Kenya. Data on camel population and distribution were used to develop camel density map, while camel farming system was defined using multi-factorial criteria including the agro-ecological zones (AEZs), production and marketing practices. Primary and secondary MERS-CoV seroprevalence data from specific sites were analyzed, and location-based prevalence matching with camel densities was conducted. High-risk convergence points (migration zones, trade routes, camel markets, slaughter slabs) were profiled and frequent cross-border camel movement mapped. Results showed that high camel-dense areas and interaction (markets and migration zones) were potential hotspot for transmission and spread. Cross-border contacts occurred with in-migrated herds at hotspot locations. AEZ differential did not influence risk distribution and plausible risk factors for spatial MERS-CoV hotspots were camel densities, previous cases of MERS-CoV, high seroprevalence and points of camel convergences. Although Kenyan camels are predisposed to MERS-CoV, no shedding is documented to date. These potential hotspots, determined using anthropogenic, system and trade characterizations should guide selection of sampling/surveillance sites, high-risk locations, critical areas for interventions and policy development in Kenya, as well as instigate further virological examination of camels.