Cholera in the Lake Kivu region (DRC): Integrating remote sensing and spatially explicit epidemiological modeling
Mathematical models of cholera dynamics can not only help in identifying environmental drivers and processes that influence disease transmission, but may also represent valuable tools for the prediction of the epidemiological patterns in time and space as well as for the allocation of health care resources. Cholera outbreaks have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 1970s. They have been ravaging the shore of Lake Kivu in the east of the country repeatedly during the last decades. Here we employ a spatially explicit, inhomogeneous Markov chain model to describe cholera incidence in eight health zones on the shore of the lake. Remotely sensed datasets of chlorophyll concentration in the lake, precipitation and indices of global climate anomalies are used as environmental drivers in addition to baseline seasonality. The effect of human mobility is also modelled mechanistically. We test several models on a multi-year dataset of reported cholera cases. The best fourteen models, accounting for different environmental drivers, and selected using the Akaike information criterion, are formally compared via proper cross-validation. Among these, the one accounting for seasonality, El Niñno Southern Oscillation, precipitation and human mobility outperforms the others in cross-validation. Some drivers (such as human mobility and rainfall) are retained only by a few models, possibly indicating that the mechanisms through which they influence cholera dynamics in the area will have to be investigated further.