Decreasing stochasticity through enhanced seasonality in measles epidemics

N. B. Mantilla-Beniers, O. N. Bjørnstad, B. T. Grenfell, P. Rohani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Seasonal changes in the environment are known to be important drivers of population dynamics, giving rise to sustained population cycles. However, it is often difficult tomeasure the strength and shape of seasonal forces affecting populations. In recent years, statistical time-seriesmethods have been applied to the incidence records of childhood infectious diseases in an attempt to estimate seasonal variation in transmission rates, as driven by the pattern of school terms. In turn, school-term forcing was used to show how susceptible influx rates affect the interepidemic period. In this paper, we document the response of measles dynamics to distinct shifts in the parameter regime using previously unexplored records of measlesmortality from the early decades of the twentieth century. We describe temporal patterns of measles epidemics using spectral analysis techniques, and point out a marked decrease in birth rates over time. Changes in host demography alone do not, however, suffice to explain epidemiological transitions. By fitting the time-series susceptible-infected- recoveredmodel tomeaslesmortality data, we obtain estimates of seasonal transmission in different eras, and find that seasonality increased over time. This analysis supports theoretical work linking complex population dynamics and the balance between stochastic and deterministic forces as determined by the strength of seasonality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-739
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number46
StatePublished - May 6 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


  • Disease ecology
  • Epidemiology
  • Measles
  • Resonance
  • Seasonality
  • Stochasticity


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