Network Analysis of MERS Coronavirus within Households, Communities, and Hospitals to Identify Most Centralized and Super-Spreading in the Arabian Peninsula, 2012 to 2016
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Contact history is crucial during an infectious disease outbreak and vital when seeking to understand and predict the spread of infectious diseases in human populations. The transmission connectivity networks of people infected with highly contagious Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia were assessed to identify super-spreading events among the infected patients between 2012 and 2016. Of the 1379 MERS cases recorded during the study period, 321 (23.3%) cases were linked to hospital infection, out of which 203 (14.7%) cases occurred among healthcare workers. There were 1113 isolated cases while the number of recorded contacts per MERS patient is between 1 (n=210) and 17 (n=1), with a mean of 0.27 (SD = 0.76). Five super-important nodes were identified based on their high number of connected contacts worthy of prioritization (at least degree of 5). The number of secondary cases in each SSE varies (range, 5-17). The eigenvector centrality was significantly (p<0.05) associated with place of exposure, with hospitals having on average significantly higher eigenvector centrality than other places of exposure. Results suggested that being a healthcare worker has a higher eigenvector centrality score on average than being nonhealthcare workers. Pathogenic droplets are easily transmitted within a confined area of hospitals; therefore, control measures should be put in place to curtail the number of hospital visitors and movements of nonessential staff within the healthcare facility with MERS cases.