Empirical determinants of measles metapopulation dynamics in England and Wales

Bärbel Finkenstädt, Bryan Grenfell


A key issue in metapopulation dynamics is the relative impact of internal patch dynamics and coupling between patches. This problem can be addressed by analysing large spatiotemporal data sets, recording the local and global dynamics of metapopulations. In this paper, we analyse the dynamics of measles metapopulations in a large spatiotemporal case notification data set, collected during the pre–vaccination era in England and Wales. Specifically, we use generalized linear statistical models to quantify the relative importance of local influences (birth rate and population size) and regional coupling on local epidemic dynamics. Apart from the proportional effect of local population size on case totals, the models indicate patterns of local and regional dynamic influences which depend on the current state of epidemics. Birth rate and geographic coupling are not associated with the size of major epidemics. By contrast, minor epidemics, and especially the incidence of local extinction of infection, are influenced both by birth rate and geographical coupling. Birth rate at a lag of four years provides the best fit, reflecting the delayed recruitment of susceptibles to school cohorts. A hierarchical index of spatial coupling to large centres provides the best spatial model. The model also indicates that minor epidemics and extinction patterns are more strongly influenced by this regional effect than the local impact of birth rate.

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