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PLoS Curr. 2015 May 15;7. pii: ecurrents.outbreaks.c3576278c66b22ab54a25e122fcdbec1. doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.c3576278c66b22ab54a25e122fcdbec1.

The Role of Social Mobilization in Controlling Ebola Virus in Lofa County, Liberia.

Author information

1
Software and Algorithms, Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
2
Boston Children's Hospital, Emergency Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
3
Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
4
Biomedical Systems, Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
5
Information and Decision Systems, Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

The West Africa Ebola virus epidemic now appears to be coming to an end. In the proposed model, we simulate changes in population behavior that help to explain the observed transmission dynamics. We introduce an EVD transmission model accompanied by a model of social mobilization. The model was fit to Lofa County, Liberia through October 2014, using weekly counts of new cases reported by the US CDC. In simulation studies, we analyze the dynamics of the disease transmission with and without population behavior change, given the availability of beds in Ebola treatment units (ETUs) estimated from observed data. Only the model scenario that included individuals' behavioral change achieved a good fit to the observed case counts. Although the capacity of the Lofa County ETUs greatly increased in mid-August, our simulations show that the expansion was insufficient to alone control the outbreak. Modeling the entire outbreak without considering behavior change fit the data poorly, and extrapolating from early data without taking behavioral changes into account led to a prediction of exponential outbreak growth, contrary to the observed decline.  Education and awareness-induced behavior change in the population was instrumental in curtailing the Ebola outbreak in Lofa County and is likely playing an important role in stopping the West Africa epidemic altogether.

KEYWORDS:

disease model; ebola; human behavior; social mobilization

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