Large-scale Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria: Quantifying the association between disease reproduction number and local rainfall

Shi Zhao, Salihu S. Musa, Hao Fu, Daihai He, Jing Qin

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Lassa fever (LF) is increasingly recognised as an important rodent-borne viral haemorrhagic fever presenting a severe public health threat to sub-Saharan West Africa. In 2017-18, LF caused an unprecedented epidemic in Nigeria and the situation was worsening in 2018-19. This work aims to study the epidemiological features of epidemics in different Nigerian regions and quantify the association between reproduction number (R) and state rainfall. We quantify the infectivity of LF by the reproduction numbers estimated from four different growth models: the Richards, three-parameter logistic, Gompertz and Weibull growth models. LF surveillance data are used to fit the growth models and estimate the Rs and epidemic turning points (τ) in different regions at different time periods. Cochran's Q test is further applied to test the spatial heterogeneity of the LF epidemics. A linear random-effect regression model is adopted to quantify the association between R and state rainfall with various lag terms. Our estimated Rs for 2017-18 (1.33 with 95% CI 1.29-1.37) was significantly higher than those for 2016-17 (1.23 with 95% CI: (1.22, 1.24)) and 2018-19 (ranged from 1.08 to 1.36). We report spatial heterogeneity in the Rs for epidemics in different Nigerian regions. We find that a one-unit (mm) increase in average monthly rainfall over the past 7 months could cause a 0.62% (95% CI 0.20%-1.05%)) rise in R. There is significant spatial heterogeneity in the LF epidemics in different Nigerian regions. We report clear evidence of rainfall impacts on LF epidemics in Nigeria and quantify the impact.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue numbere4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2020


  • Lassa fever
  • modelling analysis
  • Nigeria
  • rainfall
  • reproduction number
  • spatial heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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