A quantitative framework to define the end of an outbreak: application to Ebola Virus Disease
Djaafara B., Imai N., Hamblion E., Impouma B., Donnelly C., Cori A.
Declaring the end of an outbreak is an important step in controlling infectious disease outbreaks. An objective estimation of the probability of cases arising in the future is important to reduce the risk of post-declaration flare-ups. We developed a simulation-based model to quantify that probability. We tested it on simulated Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) data and found this probability was most sensitive to the instantaneous reproduction number, the reporting rate, and the delay between symptom onset and recovery or death of the last detected case. For EVD, our results suggest that the current WHO criterion of 42 days since the outcome of the last detected case is too short and very sensitive to underreporting. The 90 days of enhanced surveillance period after the end-of-outbreak declaration is therefore crucial to capture potential flare-ups of cases. Hence, we suggest a shift to a preliminary end-of-outbreak declaration after 63 days from the symptom onset day of the last detected case. This should be followed by a 90-day enhanced surveillance, after which the official end-of-outbreak can be declared. This corresponds to less than 5% probability of flare ups in most of the scenarios examined. Our quantitative framework could be adapted to define end-of-outbreak criteria for other infectious diseases.