Superspreaders (individuals with a high propensity for disease spread) have played a pivotal role in recent emerging and re-emerging diseases. In disease outbreak studies, host heterogeneity based on demographic (e.g. age, sex, vaccination status) and environmental (e.g. climate, urban/rural residence, clinics) factors are critical for the spread of infectious diseases, such as Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Transmission rates can vary as demographic and environmental factors are altered naturally or due to modified behaviors in response to the implementation of public health strategies. In this work, we develop stochastic models to explore the effects of demographic and environmental variability on human-to-human disease transmission rates among superspreaders in the case of Ebola and MERS. We show that the addition of environmental variability results in reduced probability of outbreak occurrence, however the severity of outbreaks that do occur increases. These observations have implications for public health strategies that aim to control environmental variables.
- Environmental variability
- Stochastic models