Transmissibility and Pathogenicity of Ebola Virus: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Household Secondary Attack Rate and Asymptomatic Infection

Natalie E. Dean, M. Elizabeth Halloran, Yang Yang, Ira M. Longini

Clinical Infectious Diseases

March 13, 2016


Factors affecting our ability to control an Ebola outbreak include transmissibility of the virus and the proportion of transmissions occurring asymptomatically. We performed a meta-analysis of Ebola household secondary attack rate (SAR), disaggregating by type of exposure (direct contact, no direct contact, nursing care, direct contact but no nursing care). The estimated overall household SAR is 12.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.6%–16.3%). Transmission was driven by direct contact, with little transmission occurring in its absence (SAR, 0.8% [95% CI, 0%–2.3%]). The greatest risk factor was the provision of nursing care (SAR, 47.9% [95% CI, 23.3%–72.6%]). There was evidence of a decline in household SAR for direct contact between 1976 and 2014 (P = .018). We estimate that 27.1% (95% CI, 14.5%–39.6%) of Ebola infections are asymptomatic. Our findings suggest that surveillance and containment measures should be effective for controlling Ebola.