Local and regional dynamics of chikungunya virus transmission in Colombia: the role of mismatched spatial heterogeneity

August 30, 2018


Mathematical models of transmission dynamics are routinely fitted to epidemiological time series, which must inevitably be aggregated at some spatial scale. Weekly case reports of chikungunya have been made available nationally for numerous countries in the Western Hemisphere since late 2013, and numerous models have made use of this data set for forecasting and inferential purposes. Motivated by an abundance of literature suggesting that the transmission of this mosquito-borne pathogen is localized at scales much finer than nationally, we fitted models at three different spatial scales to weekly case reports from Colombia to explore limitations of analyses of nationally aggregated time series data.


We adapted the recently developed Disease Transmission Kernel (DTK)-Dengue model for modeling chikungunya virus (CHIKV) transmission, given the numerous similarities of these viruses vectored by a common mosquito vector. We fitted versions of this model specified at different spatial scales to weekly case reports aggregated at different spatial scales: (1) single-patch national model fitted to national data; (2) single-patch departmental models fitted to departmental data; and (3) multi-patch departmental models fitted to departmental data, where the multiple patches refer to municipalities within a department. We compared the consistency of simulations from fitted models with empirical data.


We found that model consistency with epidemic dynamics improved with increasing spatial granularity of the model. Specifically, the sum of single-patch departmental model fits better captured national-level temporal patterns than did a single-patch national model. Likewise, multi-patch departmental model fits better captured department-level temporal patterns than did single-patch departmental model fits. Furthermore, inferences about municipal-level incidence based on multi-patch departmental models fitted to department-level data were positively correlated with municipal-level data that were withheld from model fitting.

Fig 1

a Weekly number of reported chikungunya cases in Colombia (black), along with the mean and 95% CI from the (green) national-level model. b National-level totals derived by combining the results of each departmental model with either a (blue) single-patch model per department, or (red) the multi-patch models. c Maps of Colombia showing the spatial scale of the different models, with the color coding for the different models used in all figures