Optimal environmental testing frequency for outbreak surveillance

Epidemics. 2024 Mar:46:100750. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2024.100750. Epub 2024 Feb 15.


Public health surveillance for pathogens presents an optimization problem: we require enough sampling to identify intervention-triggering shifts in pathogen epidemiology, such as new introductions or sudden increases in prevalence, but not so much that costs due to surveillance itself outweigh those from pathogen-associated illness. To determine this optimal sampling frequency, we developed a general mathematical model for the introduction of a new pathogen that, once introduced, increases in prevalence exponentially. Given the relative cost of infection vs. sampling, we derived equations for the expected combined cost per unit time of disease burden and surveillance for a specified sampling frequency, and thus the sampling frequency for which the expected total cost per unit time is lowest.

Keywords: Early pathogen detection; Environmental surveillance; Mathematical modeling; Vector trapping; Wastewater sampling.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Public Health Surveillance*