Epidemiologists are looking at the latest contagious disease outbreaks to understand factors affecting how these diseases spread so fast. One number, in particular, the R0 ratio, sheds light on how contagious diseases such as measles and Ebola can be.
The R0 Number and Disease Control
The R0 number for a disease is the average number of people that the infected person can infect in a population that is not vaccinated. Understanding this number is important to epidemiologists looking at the two main disease outbreaks that have occurred in the last year. David Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is one of those working on this study. The findings are useful in raising awareness about the power of vaccination.
In the United States, the measles outbreak has been a cause for concern. There have been at least 940 people affected this year in 26 states. Internationally, the Ebola crisis rocked the nation of Congo in 2018. As many as 1281 people were killed, while the total number of total reported cases were 1,920.
These high numbers show the impact that an infectious disease can have on a population. It also highlights the need for disease control and disease prevention. The R0 number or basic reproduction number of a disease gives a measure of how contagious and easy to transmit that disease is. Researchers are using this number to estimate emerging disease infections and the possible extent of a disease outbreak.
There is a range of factors that researchers need to explore when calculating the R0 number and using it in their estimates. They have to look at how long an infected person stays infectious. They must consider how often this person is in contact with other people each day. They also have to look at the likelihood of spreading the disease. Other influences to consider in epidemiology studies are the age of the affected, the health system, the resources available, and the population density.