Subramanian, Rahul; Victoria Romeo-Aznar; Edward Ionides; Claudia T. Codeco and Mercedes Pascual
Predicting arbovirus re-emergence remains challenging in regions with limited off-season transmission and intermittent epidemics. Current mathematical models treat the depletion and replenishment of susceptible (non-immune) hosts as the principal drivers of re-emergence, based on established understanding of highly transmissible childhood diseases with frequent epidemics. We extend an analytical approach to determine the number of 'skip' years preceding re-emergence for diseases with continuous seasonal transmission, population growth and under-reporting. Re-emergence times are shown to be highly sensitive to small changes in low R-0 (secondary cases produced from a primary infection in a fully susceptible population). We then fit a stochastic Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model to observed case data for the emergence of dengue serotype DENV1 in Rio de Janeiro. This aggregated city-level model substantially over-estimates observed re-emergence times either in terms of skips or outbreak probability under forward simulation. The inability of susceptible depletion and replenishment to explain re-emergence under 'well-mixed' conditions at a city-wide scale demonstrates a key limitation of SIR aggregated models, including those applied to other arboviruses. The predictive uncertainty and high skip sensitivity to epidemiological parameters suggest a need to investigate the relevant spatial scales of susceptible depletion and the scaling of microscale transmission dynamics to formulate simpler models that apply at coarse resolutions.