As many of y’all know, my pre-doctoral thesis (which will likely comprise the first several chapters of my dissertation) is on the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia. I’ve been following MERS pretty closely for the past year, and with the help of my colleagues at HealthMap (including two incredible interns!) and my wonderful thesis advisor, I’ve been able to curate a pretty incredible data set using publicly available data streams in both Arabic and English. We’re working on a few pretty awesome studies right now, but for the time being I wanted to share some high-resolution versions of our most up-to-date exploratory data visualizations.
A couple of notes:
1) February 2015 cases have already surpassed counts from March 2014. Given that March 2014 signaled the start of last year’s outbreak, this current uptick in cases might indicate a larger surge in the weeks ahead. Definitely something to keep an eye on!
2) MERS exhibits a very unusual age distribution in Saudi Arabia. My current hypothesis is that the younger clusters are asymptomatic and mild cases among healthcare workers and family contacts, while older cases are comorbid individuals with severe disease. Further investigation is definitely necessary; next steps include delineating by healthcare worker status, symptom severity, and comorbidity status.
3) The demographic panel indicates that there are definitely some behavioral drivers of MERS transmission in Saudi Arabia (i.e. high percentage of potentially nosocomial cases; high male-to-female ratio).