Saturday, 15 March 2014

H7N9: the dotted lines that make sense of things...[CORRECTED]

Click on image to enlarge.
The latest H7N9 case-per-day chart shows that the trickle of human cases of confirmed avian influenza A(H7N9) virus infection is becoming a drip. The tap? My money is still mostly with the market closures. What precisely in the markets is the source of human H7N9 acquisition? Dunno, but the consensus seems to be poultry; songbirds also look pretty good though. It doesn't have to be, and is unlikely to be, just 1 thing of course. We know that this virus, as with other avian influenza viruses, can be shared around among bird species. It can even go into a human and that isolate be used to infect a bird again. See my recent post on some of this.


Click on image to enlarge.
What's also particularly intriguing, among the many interesting aspects of H7N9's acquisition and spread among humans, is that we're seeing much more "shouldering" in the Wave 2 epidemic curve than we did in Wave 1's.

Instead of the precipitous decline we saw back in 2013, we're seeing a drop down to ~10 cases per day, but then a slower decline the rest of the way. Is this because we started human cases from more sites this time around?; because markets took longer to close after the cases numbers began to climb?; is it related to markets being closed at different times, in different ways, in different locales? Who knows?
Cases by region acquired, per week, with different
 regions highlighted by coloured lines and the 
total case number in the background (grey).
Wave 1 and Wave 2.
Click on image to enlarge.

Dr Katherine Arden suggested I have a look at what's happening in each Province or Municipality and see whether any particular place can shoulder the blame for the shouldering. And that does seem to be the case if you look at the adjacent chart. Guangdong province seems to be the major culprit contributing to the shoulder effect. 


Cases by region acquired, per week, with different
 regions highlighted by coloured lines and the
total case number in the background (grey).
Wave 2 only.
Click on image to enlarge.
In the zoomed-in version that focusses on Wave 2 alone, we can see that the Wave 2 "peak" has in fact 2 peaks; the 1st peak dominated by Zhejiang province cases and the 2nd driven by a surge in Guangdong provincial cases. Guangdong cases took longer to drop away, and are in fact still being reported, possibly because the major poultry markets there were closed later than in Shanghai and Zhejiang province and only temporarily for a clean. Or perhaps the bird outbreak @influenza_bio and I discussed has a source in Guangdong province?

It's all speculation beyond the data we can actually plot.