School of Mathematics and Statistics - Research Publications

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 43
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Rapid assessment of the risk of SARS-CoV-2 importation: case study and lessons learned
    Shearer, FM ; Walker, J ; Tellioglu, N ; McCaw, JM ; McVernon, J ; Black, A ; Geard, N (ELSEVIER, 2022-03-01)
    During the early stages of an emerging disease outbreak, governments are required to make critical decisions on how to respond, despite limited data being available to inform these decisions. Analytical risk assessment is a valuable approach to guide decision-making on travel restrictions and border measures during the early phase of an outbreak. Here we describe a rapid risk assessment framework that was developed in February 2020 to support time-critical decisions on the risk of SARS-CoV-2 importation into Australia. We briefly describe the context in which our framework was developed, the framework itself, and provide an example of the type of decision support provided to the Australian government. We then report a critical evaluation of the modelling choices made in February 2020, assessing the impact of our assumptions on estimated rates of importation, and provide a summary of "lessons learned". The framework presented and evaluated here provides a flexible approach to rapid assessment of importation risk, of relevance to current and future pandemic scenarios.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    COVID-19 in low-tolerance border quarantine systems: Impact of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2
    Zachreson, C ; Shearer, FM ; Price, DJ ; Lydeamore, MJ ; McVernon, J ; McCaw, J ; Geard, N (AMER ASSOC ADVANCEMENT SCIENCE, 2022-04-01)
    In controlling transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the effectiveness of border quarantine strategies is a key concern for jurisdictions in which the local prevalence of disease and immunity is low. In settings like this such as China, Australia, and New Zealand, rare outbreak events can lead to escalating epidemics and trigger the imposition of large-scale lockdown policies. Here, we develop and apply an individual-based model of COVID-19 to simulate case importation from managed quarantine under various vaccination scenarios. We then use the output of the individual-based model as input to a branching process model to assess community transmission risk. For parameters corresponding to the Delta variant, our results demonstrate that vaccination effectively counteracts the pathogen's increased infectiousness. To prevent outbreaks, heightened vaccination in border quarantine systems must be combined with mass vaccination. The ultimate success of these programs will depend sensitively on the efficacy of vaccines against viral transmission.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    From Climate Change to Pandemics: Decision Science Can Help Scientists Have Impact
    Baker, CM ; Campbell, PT ; Chades, I ; Dean, AJ ; Hester, SM ; Holden, MH ; McCaw, JM ; McVernon, J ; Moss, R ; Shearer, FM ; Possingham, HP (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2022-02-14)
    Scientific knowledge and advances are a cornerstone of modern society. They improve our understanding of the world we live in and help us navigate global challenges including emerging infectious diseases, climate change and the biodiversity crisis. However, there is a perpetual challenge in translating scientific insight into policy. Many articles explain how to better bridge the gap through improved communication and engagement, but we believe that communication and engagement are only one part of the puzzle. There is a fundamental tension between science and policy because scientific endeavors are rightfully grounded in discovery, but policymakers formulate problems in terms of objectives, actions and outcomes. Decision science provides a solution by framing scientific questions in a way that is beneficial to policy development, facilitating scientists’ contribution to public discussion and policy. At its core, decision science is a field that aims to pinpoint evidence-based management strategies by focussing on those objectives, actions, and outcomes defined through the policy process. The importance of scientific discovery here is in linking actions to outcomes, helping decision-makers determine which actions best meet their objectives. In this paper we explain how problems can be formulated through the structured decision-making process. We give our vision for what decision science may grow to be, describing current gaps in methodology and application. By better understanding and engaging with the decision-making processes, scientists can have greater impact and make stronger contributions to important societal problems.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Turnover of Village Chickens Undermines Vaccine Coverage to Control HPAI H5N1
    Villanueva-Cabezas, JP ; Campbell, PT ; McCaw, JM ; Durr, PA ; McVernon, J (WILEY, 2017-02-01)
    Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 remains an enzootic disease of village chickens in Indonesia, posing ongoing risk at the animal-human interface. Previous modelling showed that the fast natural turnover of chicken populations might undermine herd immunity after vaccination, although actual details of how this effect applies to Indonesia's village chicken population have not been determined. We explored the turnover effect in Indonesia's scavenging and mixed populations of village chickens using an extended Leslie matrix model parameterized with data collected from village chicken flocks in Java region, Indonesia. Population dynamics were simulated for 208 weeks; the turnover effect was simulated for 16 weeks after vaccination in two 'best case' scenarios, where the whole population (scenario 1), or birds aged over 14 days (scenario 2), were vaccinated. We found that the scavenging and mixed populations have different productive traits. When steady-state dynamics are reached, both populations are dominated by females (54.5%), and 'growers' and 'chicks' represent the most abundant age stages with 39% and 38% in the scavenging, and 60% and 25% in the mixed population, respectively. Simulations showed that the population turnover might reduce the herd immunity below the critical threshold that prevents the re-emergence of HPAI H5N1 4-8 weeks (scavenging) and 6-9 weeks (mixed population) after vaccination in scenario 1, and 2-6 weeks (scavenging) and 4-7 weeks (mixed population) after vaccination in scenario 2. In conclusion, we found that Indonesia's village chicken population does not have a unique underlying population dynamic and therefore, different turnover effects on herd immunity may be expected after vaccination; nonetheless, our simulations carried out in best case scenarios highlight the limitations of current vaccine technologies to control HPAI H5N1. This suggests that the improvements and complementary strategies are necessary and must be explored.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Optimal allocation of PCR tests to minimise disease transmission through contact tracing and quarantine
    Baker, CM ; Chades, I ; McVernon, J ; Robinson, AP ; Bondell, H (ELSEVIER, 2021-10-02)
    PCR testing is a crucial capability for managing disease outbreaks, but it is also a limited resource and must be used carefully to ensure the information gain from testing is valuable. Testing has two broad uses for informing public health policy, namely to track epidemic dynamics and to reduce transmission by identifying and managing cases. In this work we develop a modelling framework to examine the effects of test allocation in an epidemic, with a focus on using testing to minimise transmission. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, we examine how the number of tests conducted per day relates to reduction in disease transmission, in the context of logistical constraints on the testing system. We show that if daily testing is above the routine capacity of a testing system, which can cause delays, then those delays can undermine efforts to reduce transmission through contact tracing and quarantine. This work highlights that the two goals of aiming to reduce transmission and aiming to identify all cases are different, and it is possible that focusing on one may undermine achieving the other. To develop an effective strategy, the goals must be clear and performance metrics must match the goals of the testing strategy. If metrics do not match the objectives of the strategy, then those metrics may incentivise actions that undermine achieving the objectives.
  • Item
    No Preview Available
    Development of an influenza pandemic decision support tool linking situational analytics to national response policy.
    Shearer, FM ; Moss, R ; Price, DJ ; Zarebski, AE ; Ballard, PG ; McVernon, J ; Ross, JV ; McCaw, JM (Elsevier, 2021-06-19)
    National influenza pandemic plans have evolved substantially over recent decades, as has the scientific research that underpins the advice contained within them. While the knowledge generated by many research activities has been directly incorporated into the current generation of pandemic plans, scientists and policymakers are yet to capitalise fully on the potential for near real-time analytics to formally contribute to epidemic decision-making. Theoretical studies demonstrate that it is now possible to make robust estimates of pandemic impact in the earliest stages of a pandemic using first few hundred household cohort (FFX) studies and algorithms designed specifically for analysing FFX data. Pandemic plans already recognise the importance of both situational awareness i.e., knowing pandemic impact and its key drivers, and the need for pandemic special studies and related analytic methods for estimating these drivers. An important next step is considering how information from these situational assessment activities can be integrated into the decision-making processes articulated in pandemic planning documents. Here we introduce a decision support tool that directly uses outputs from FFX algorithms to present recommendations on response options, including a quantification of uncertainty, to decision makers. We illustrate this approach using response information from within the Australian influenza pandemic plan.
  • Item
    No Preview Available
    Constructing an ethical framework for priority allocation of pandemic vaccines
    Fielding, J ; Sullivan, SG ; Beard, F ; Macartney, K ; Williams, J ; Dawson, A ; Gilbert, GL ; Massey, P ; Crooks, K ; Moss, R ; McCaw, JM ; McVernon, J (ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2021-01-21)
    BACKGROUND: Allocation of scarce resources during a pandemic extends to the allocation of vaccines when they eventually become available. We describe a framework for priority vaccine allocation that employed a cross-disciplinary approach, guided by ethical considerations and informed by local risk assessment. METHODS: Published and grey literature was reviewed, and augmented by consultation with key informants, to collate past experience, existing guidelines and emerging strategies for pandemic vaccine deployment. Identified ethical issues and decision-making processes were also included. Concurrently, simulation modelling studies estimated the likely impacts of alternative vaccine allocation approaches. Assembled evidence was presented to a workshop of national experts in pandemic preparedness, vaccine strategy, implementation and ethics. All of this evidence was then used to generate a proposed ethical framework for vaccine priorities best suited to the Australian context. FINDINGS: Published and emerging guidance for priority pandemic vaccine distribution differed widely with respect to strategic objectives, specification of target groups, and explicit discussion of ethical considerations and decision-making processes. Flexibility in response was universally emphasised, informed by real-time assessment of the pandemic impact level, and identification of disproportionately affected groups. Model outputs aided identification of vaccine approaches most likely to achieve overarching goals in pandemics of varying transmissibility and severity. Pandemic response aims deemed most relevant for an Australian framework were: creating and maintaining trust, promoting equity, and reducing harmful outcomes. INTERPRETATION: Defining clear and ethically-defendable objectives for pandemic response in context aids development of flexible and adaptive decision support frameworks and facilitates clear communication and engagement activities.
  • Item
    No Preview Available
    Coronavirus Disease Model to Inform Transmission -Reducing Measures and Health System Preparedness, Australia
    Moss, R ; Wood, J ; Brown, D ; Shearer, FM ; Black, AJ ; Glass, K ; Cheng, AC ; McCaw, JM ; McVernon, J (CENTERS DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION, 2020-12-01)
    The ability of health systems to cope with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases is of major concern. In preparation, we used clinical pathway models to estimate healthcare requirements for COVID-19 patients in the context of broader public health measures in Australia. An age- and risk-stratified transmission model of COVID-19 demonstrated that an unmitigated epidemic would dramatically exceed the capacity of the health system of Australia over a prolonged period. Case isolation and contact quarantine alone are insufficient to constrain healthcare needs within feasible levels of expansion of health sector capacity. Overlaid social restrictions must be applied over the course of the epidemic to ensure systems do not become overwhelmed and essential health sector functions, including care of COVID-19 patients, can be maintained. Attention to the full pathway of clinical care is needed, along with ongoing strengthening of capacity.
  • Item
    No Preview Available
    Pandemic controllability: a concept to guide a proportionate and flexible operational response to future influenza pandemics
    McCaw, JM ; Glass, K ; Mercer, GN ; McVernon, J (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2014-03-01)
    The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic posed challenges for governments worldwide. Strategies designed to limit community transmission, such as antiviral deployment, were largely ineffective due to both feasibility constraints and the generally mild nature of disease, resulting in incomplete case ascertainment. Reviews of national pandemic plans have identified pandemic impact, primarily linked to measures of transmissibility and severity, as a key concept to incorporate into the next generation of plans. While an assessment of impact provides the rationale under which interventions may be warranted, it does not directly provide an assessment on whether particular interventions may be effective. Such considerations motivate our introduction of the concept of pandemic controllability. For case-targeted interventions, such as antiviral treatment and post-exposure prophylaxis, we identify the visibility and transmissibility of a pandemic as the key drivers of controllability. Taking a case-study approach, we suggest that high-impact pandemics, for which control is most desirable, are likely uncontrollable with case-targeted interventions. Strategies that do not rely on the identification of cases may prove relatively more effective. By introducing a pragmatic framework for relating the assessment of impact to the ability to mitigate an epidemic (controllability), we hope to address a present omission identified in pandemic response plans.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    A Mathematical Framework for Estimating Pathogen Transmission Fitness and Inoculum Size Using Data from a Competitive Mixtures Animal Model
    McCaw, JM ; Arinaminpathy, N ; Hurt, AC ; McVernon, J ; McLean, AR ; Fraser, C (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-04-01)
    We present a method to measure the relative transmissibility ("transmission fitness") of one strain of a pathogen compared to another. The model is applied to data from "competitive mixtures" experiments in which animals are co-infected with a mixture of two strains. We observe the mixture in each animal over time and over multiple generations of transmission. We use data from influenza experiments in ferrets to demonstrate the approach. Assessment of the relative transmissibility between two strains of influenza is important in at least three contexts: 1) Within the human population antigenically novel strains of influenza arise and compete for susceptible hosts. 2) During a pandemic event, a novel sub-type of influenza competes with the existing seasonal strain(s). The unfolding epidemiological dynamics are dependent upon both the population's susceptibility profile and the inherent transmissibility of the novel strain compared to the existing strain(s). 3) Neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs), while providing significant potential to reduce transmission of influenza, exert selective pressure on the virus and so promote the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Any adverse outcome due to selection and subsequent spread of an NAI-resistant strain is exquisitely dependent upon the transmission fitness of that strain. Measurement of the transmission fitness of two competing strains of influenza is thus of critical importance in determining the likely time-course and epidemiology of an influenza outbreak, or the potential impact of an intervention measure such as NAI distribution. The mathematical framework introduced here also provides an estimate for the size of the transmitted inoculum. We demonstrate the framework's behaviour using data from ferret transmission studies, and through simulation suggest how to optimise experimental design for assessment of transmissibility. The method introduced here for assessment of mixed transmission events has applicability beyond influenza, to other viral and bacterial pathogens.