Infectious disease outbreaks are responsible for devastating consequences. As an example, the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa led to more than 11,000 deaths, putting it at the centre of the news agenda. During this talk, using Ebola as a case study, Robin will discuss how epidemiological models can be used at different stages of an infectious disease outbreak.
At the beginning of an outbreak, key questions include: how can surveillance be performed effectively, and will the outbreak develop into a major epidemic? When a major epidemic is ongoing, decision makers often attempt to forecast the final epidemic size and plan control interventions to reduce the impact of the epidemic. And at the apparent end of an epidemic, an important question is whether the epidemic is really over once there are no new symptomatic cases. Mathematical modelling can be used to address these questions, and is a useful tool for decision makers throughout an outbreak.
Dr Robin Thompson is a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, University of Oxford, UK. His research involves using mathematical models to represent the epidemiological or evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease outbreaks in human, animal or plant populations. This includes using statistical methods to estimate parameters associated with pathogen transmission and developing stochastic or deterministic models for generating outbreak forecasts. These forward projections can be used to predict the effects of proposed control interventions. He is also guest editor of two theme issues of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B about modelling outbreaks in humans, animals and plants.