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As the global eradication of poliomyelitis approaches the final stages, prompt detection of new outbreaks is critical to enable a fast and effective outbreak response. Surveillance relies on reporting of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases and laboratory confirmation through isolation of poliovirus from stool. However, delayed sample collection and testing can delay outbreak detection. We investigated whether weekly testing for clusters of AFP by location and time, using the Kulldorff scan statistic, could provide an early warning for outbreaks in 20 countries. A mixed-effects regression model was used to predict background rates of nonpolio AFP at the district level. In Tajikistan and Congo, testing for AFP clusters would have resulted in an outbreak warning 39 and 11 days, respectively, before official confirmation of large outbreaks. This method has relatively high specificity and could be integrated into the current polio information system to support rapid outbreak response activities.

Original publication




Journal article


Emerging infectious diseases

Publication Date





449 - 456


Humans, Poliomyelitis, Muscle Hypotonia, Paralysis, Early Diagnosis, Cluster Analysis, Disease Outbreaks, Time Factors, Congo, Somalia, Tajikistan, Disease Eradication, Epidemiological Monitoring