Transmission potential of chikungunya virus and control measures: the case of Italy

PLoS One. 2011 May 3;6(5):e18860. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018860.


During summer 2007 Italy has experienced an epidemic caused by Chikungunya virus - the first large outbreak documented in a temperate climate country - with approximately 161 laboratory confirmed cases concentrated in two bordering villages in North-Eastern Italy comprising 3,968 inhabitants. The seroprevalence was recently estimated to be 10.2%. In this work we provide estimates of the transmission potential of the virus and we assess the efficacy of the measures undertaken by public health authorities to control the epidemic spread. To such aim, we developed a model describing the temporal dynamics of the competent vector, known as Aedes albopictus, explicitly depending on climatic factors, coupled to an epidemic transmission model describing the spread of the epidemic in both humans and mosquitoes. The cumulative number of notified cases predicted by the model was 185 on average (95% CI 117-278), in good agreement with observed data. The probability of observing a major outbreak after the introduction of an infective human case was estimated to be in the range of 32%-76%. We found that the basic reproduction number was in the range of 1.8-6 but it could have been even larger, depending on the density of mosquitoes, which in turn depends on seasonal meteorological effects, besides other local abiotic factors. These results confirm the increasing risk of tropical vector-borne diseases in temperate climate countries, as a consequence of globalization. However, our results show that an epidemic can be controlled by performing a timely intervention, even if the transmission potential of Chikungunya virus is sensibly high.

MeSH terms

  • Aedes
  • Animals
  • Chikungunya virus / metabolism*
  • Climate
  • Communicable Disease Control*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Epidemics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / virology
  • Italy
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Public Health
  • Virus Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Virus Diseases / transmission*
  • Virus Diseases / virology*