Understanding the dynamics of outbreaks of Lassa Fever
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever illness, similar to Ebola, which is endemic in parts of West Africa. In the majority of people symptoms are mild, but in approximately 20% of infected individuals more serious symptoms may develop, which include haemorrhages (e.g. in gums or eyes), respiratory distress, and multiple organ failure which may lead to death. The virus is transmitted through the urine and faeces of infected rats and there are an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 annual cases worldwide. Lassa has been identified as a virus which potentially causes larger outbreaks, or even a pandemic, due to a long incubation period and the mild symptoms experienced by the majority of infected individuals, meaning the disease could spread via international travel. It has therefore been prioritised for vaccine development, including by international efforts such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations' (CEPI).
Risk of human exposure from rodent reservoirs hinges on factors relating to rodent ecology, including seasonal dynamics of the rodent population and human/rodent interaction patterns, with potential risk of human-to-human transmission, particularly in resource-poor health-care settings where personal protective equipment (PPE) may be lacking.
In this project you will work with publicly available data on outbreaks of Lassa fever, and combine with other data sources to evaluate the current dynamics of infection. Depending on the interests of the student, we will work on statistical analyses of the past outbreaks or on transmission models to evaluate interventions to control transmission.
Weeks 1 and 2 - compiling publicly available data on outbreaks of Lassa fever
Weeks 3 and 4 - descriptive analyses of data and refinement of analysis plan
Weeks 5 and 6 - Analysing using statistical/transmission models
Weeks 7 and 8 - finalising and writing up results