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Outbreaks of poliomyelitis in African countries that were previously free of wild-type poliovirus cost the Global Polio Eradication Initiative US$850 million during 2003-2009, and have limited the ability of the program to focus on endemic countries. A quantitative understanding of the factors that predict the distribution and timing of outbreaks will enable their prevention and facilitate the completion of global eradication.Children with poliomyelitis in Africa from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2010 were identified through routine surveillance of cases of acute flaccid paralysis, and separate outbreaks associated with importation of wild-type poliovirus were defined using the genetic relatedness of these viruses in the VP1/2A region. Potential explanatory variables were examined for their association with the number, size, and duration of poliomyelitis outbreaks in 6-mo periods using multivariable regression analysis. The predictive ability of 6-mo-ahead forecasts of poliomyelitis outbreaks in each country based on the regression model was assessed. A total of 142 genetically distinct outbreaks of poliomyelitis were recorded in 25 African countries, resulting in 1-228 cases (median of two cases). The estimated number of people arriving from infected countries and <5-y childhood mortality were independently associated with the number of outbreaks. Immunisation coverage based on the reported vaccination history of children with non-polio acute flaccid paralysis was associated with the duration and size of each outbreak, as well as the number of outbreaks. Six-month-ahead forecasts of the number of outbreaks in a country or region changed over time and had a predictive ability of 82%.Outbreaks of poliomyelitis resulted primarily from continued transmission in Nigeria and the poor immunisation status of populations in neighbouring countries. From 1 January 2010 to 30 June 2011, reduced transmission in Nigeria and increased incidence in reinfected countries in west and central Africa have changed the geographical risk of polio outbreaks, and will require careful immunisation planning to limit onward spread. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pmed.1001109

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS medicine

Publication Date

18/10/2011

Volume

8

Addresses

Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom. k.oreilly@imperial.ac.uk

Keywords

Humans, Poliovirus, Poliomyelitis, Models, Statistical, Disease Outbreaks, Africa