Digital epidemiology reveals global childhood disease seasonality and the effects of immunization

Bakker, K. M., Martinez-Bakker, M. E., Helm, B. and Stevenson, T. J. (2016) Digital epidemiology reveals global childhood disease seasonality and the effects of immunization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(24), pp. 6689-6694. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1523941113) (PMID:27247405) (PMCID:PMC4914188)

Bakker, K. M., Martinez-Bakker, M. E., Helm, B. and Stevenson, T. J. (2016) Digital epidemiology reveals global childhood disease seasonality and the effects of immunization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(24), pp. 6689-6694. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1523941113) (PMID:27247405) (PMCID:PMC4914188)

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Abstract

Public health surveillance systems are important for tracking disease dynamics. In recent years, social and real-time digital data sources have provided new means of studying disease transmission. Such affordable and accessible data have the potential to offer new insights into disease epidemiology at national and international scales. We used the extensive information repository Google Trends to examine the digital epidemiology of a common childhood disease, chicken pox, caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV), over an eleven-year period. We (1) report robust seasonal information seeking behavior for chicken pox using Google data from 36 countries, (2) validate Google data using clinical chicken pox cases, (3) demonstrate that Google data can be used to identify recurrent seasonal outbreaks and forecast their magnitude and seasonal timing, and (4) reveal that VZV immunization significantly dampened seasonal cycles in information seeking behavior. Our findings provide strong evidence that VZV transmission is seasonal and that seasonal peaks show remarkable latitudinal variation. We attribute the dampened seasonal cycles in chicken pox information seeking behavior to VZV vaccine-induced reduction of seasonal transmission. These data and the methodological approaches provide a novel way to track the global burden of childhood disease, and illustrate population-level effects of immunization. The global latitudinal patterns in outbreak seasonality could direct future studies of environmental and physiological drivers of disease transmission.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Helm, Dr Barbara and Stevenson, Dr Tyler
Authors: Bakker, K. M., Martinez-Bakker, M. E., Helm, B., and Stevenson, T. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
ISSN (Online):1091-6490
Published Online:31 May 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 National Academy of Sciences
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(24):6689-6694
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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