Abstract

In the field of infectious disease epidemiology, the assessment of model robustness outcomes plays a significant role in the identification, reformulation, and evaluation of preparedness strategies aimed at limiting the impact of catastrophic events (pandemics or the deliberate release of biological agents) or used in the management of disease prevention strategies, or employed in the identification and evaluation of control or mitigation measures. The research work in this dissertation focuses on: The comparison and assessment of the role of exponentially distributed waiting times versus the use of generalized nonexponential parametric distributed waiting times of infectious periods on the quantitative and qualitative outcomes generated by SusceptibleInfectiousRemoved (SIR) models. Specifically, Gamma distributed infectious periods are considered in the three research projects developed following the applications found in (Bailey 1964, Anderson 1980, Wearing 2005, Feng 2007, Feng 2007, Yan 2008, lloyd 2009, Vergu 2010). i) The first project focuses on the influence of input model parameters, such as the transmission rate, mean and variance of Gamma distributed infectious periods, on disease prevalence, the peak epidemic size and its timing, final epidemic size, epidemic duration and basic reproduction number. Global uncertainty and sensitivity analyses are carried out using a deterministic SusceptibleInfectiousRecovered (SIR) model. The quantitative effect and qualitative relation between input model parameters and outcome variables are established using Latin Hypercube Sampling (LHS) and Partial rank correlation coefficient (PRCC) and Spearman rank correlation coefficient (RCC) sensitivity indices. We learnt that: For relatively low (R0 close to one) to high (mean of R0 equals 15) transmissibility, the variance of the Gamma distribution for the infectious period, input parameter of the deterministic ageofinfection SIR model, is key (statistically significant) on the predictability of the epidemiological variables such as the epidemic duration and the peak size and timing of the prevalence of infectious individuals and therefore, for the predictability these variables, it is preferable to utilize a nonlinear system of Volterra integral equations, rather than a nonlinear system of ordinary differential equations. The predictability of epidemiological variables such as the final epidemic size and the basic reproduction number are unaffected by (or independent of) the variance of the Gamma distribution for the infectious period and therefore for the choice on which type of nonlinear system for the description of the SIR model (VIE's or ODE's) is irrelevant. Although, for practical proposes, with the aim of lowering the complexity and number operations in the numerical methods, a nonlinear system of ordinary differential equations is preferred. The main contribution lies in the development of a model based decisiontool that helps determine when SIR models given in terms of Volterra integral equations are equivalent or better suited than SIR models that only consider exponentially distributed infectious periods. ii) The second project addresses the question of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to conclude that two empirical distributions for a single epidemiological outcome, one generated using a stochastic SIR model under exponentially distributed infectious periods and the other under the nonexponentially distributed infectious period, are statistically dissimilar. The stochastic formulations are modeled via a continuous time Markov chain model. The statistical hypothesis test is conducted using the nonparametric KolmogorovSmirnov test. We found evidence that shows that for low to moderate transmissibility, all empirical distribution pairs (generated from exponential and nonexponential distributions) for each of the epidemiological quantities considered are statistically dissimilar. The research in this project helps determine whether the weakening exponential distribution assumption must be considered in the estimation of probability of events defined from the empirical distribution of specific random variables. iii) The third project involves the assessment of the effect of exponentially distributed infectious periods on estimates of input parameter and the associated outcome variable predictions. Quantities unaffected by the use of exponentially distributed infectious period within low transmissibility scenarios include, the prevalence peak time, final epidemic size, epidemic duration and basic reproduction number and for high transmissibility scenarios only the prevalence peak time and final epidemic size. An application designed to determine from incidence data whether there is sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that the infectious period distribution should not be modeled by an exponential distribution is developed. A method for estimating explicitly specified nonexponential parametric probability density functions for the infectious period from epidemiological data is developed. The methodologies presented in this dissertation may be applicable to models where waiting times are used to model transitions between stages, a process that is common in the study of lifehistory dynamics of many ecological systems.... (more) 