Epidemic risk from cholera introductions into Mexico

Moore SM, Shannon KL, Zelaya CE, Azman AS, Lessler J

Stemming from the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, cholera transmission in Hispaniola continues with over 40,000 cases in 2013. The presence of an ongoing cholera outbreak in the region poses substantial risks to countries throughout the Americas, particularly in areas with poor infrastructure. Since September 9, 2013 nearly 200 cholera cases have been reported in Mexico, as a result of introductions from Hispaniola or Cuba. There appear to have been multiple introductions into Mexico resulting in outbreaks of 2 to over 150 people. Using publicly available data, we attempt to estimate the reproductive number (R) of cholera in Mexico, and thereby assess the potential of continued introductions to establish a sustained epidemic. We estimate R for cholera in Mexico to be between 0.8 to 1.1, depending on the number of introductions, with the confidence intervals for the most plausible estimates crossing 1. These results suggest that the efficiency of cholera transmission in some regions of Mexico is near that necessary for a large epidemic. Intensive surveillance, evaluation of water and sanitation infrastructure, and planning for rapid response are warranted steps to avoid potential large epidemics in the region.