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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsHi, Frank. Hi. Great to having you here today. Thank you. What triggered you to do your PhD on cholera? Yeah. Well, I never expected cholera in my country in these recent times. And also, due to the advancements in technology and knowledge, it's actually an eyesore to have cholera. But yet still the disease kept on coming and going, coming and going. So I decided to find out why. I read a few articles and realized much of the focus was on biological characteristics of the bacteria and also the individuals affected. And there was nothing done about the spatial characteristics of the disease. And myself, being from a dramatic background, decided to add my knowledge of space to model the disease. Mm.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 secondsAnd what were your findings in your research? Yeah. There were quite great findings and very interesting findings. I realized surface water pollution was a major cause of the outbreak of the disease.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsOpen-space refuse dumps was also a very critical factor of the disease. And yeah, these were two very, very major factors which were not really known to be modulating the spread of the disease. Do you think we can learn a lot from studying previous disease outbreaks? Of course, yes. Because by learning a lot about the disease, we tend to have enough knowledge about how to model it and also prevent the spread of the disease in the near future when it should come. OK, is there still cholera in Ghana? Because your research was on the 2005 outbreak of cholera. Yes. Surprisingly, there was. About nine to 10 years after I was, there was an outbreak that was 2014. There was an outbreak.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsAnd that was a massive outbreak and almost worse than any other outbreak that the country had experienced. Yeah. OK, and how does the situation in Ghana then compare to other African countries? Because I guess they are also experiencing cholera outbreaks. Yes. Most of these African countries have similar characteristics, similar spatial settings. Most especially, the outbreak in the 2014 spread across Ghana. And several other African countries like Cameroon, Nigeria also received the outbreak. Yes. And that was quite unexpected. And it calls for further research to understanding why the outbreak keeps on occurring. And for example, studying the outbreak in Ghana could also help gain understanding for these countries. Yes, of course.

Skip to 3 minutes and 29 secondsBecause the characteristics of the bacteria might not change much from place to place or from country to country. The other social settings might a little bit change. But I don't believe the characteristics of the bacteria might change. So what we need to do is to study the behaviour of the bacteria in its environment in the aquatic reservoir. If we're able to study the nature of this bacteria, then we could kind of predict where we are likely to receive an outbreak of the disease. OK, that sounds good. Yeah. Let's go and immediately start working on this right-- Yes, of course. --to prevent any further casualties in the future. Yes, yes. Thank you very much for sharing-- Thank you very much.

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 seconds--your insight with us. Thank you very much.

Why do we create simulation models?

What is the use of simulating transmission dynamics or the spatial-temporal spread of diseases? Why are we so keen on building simulation models?

Initially, many of my students think that we built a simulation to predict the future. However, in many cases this is not true. For me there are two other reasons why I create simulations:

  • To gain better understanding (by testing a hypothesis)
  • To test interventions

I am not sure in which order I should put these items. When we are planning interventions, models provide an excellent playground. You can test it out to see if indeed the intervention will have the envisioned effect. However, you have to make sure that your model is valid, that it captures all the essential elements. For many processes (including spatial temporal disease dynamics) we only have a partial understanding of what actually happens. When we have hypothesis about how a process might work, we can built a model to test if we are correct. This can mean that we make a step forward in our understanding.

The case study of this topic is an example of this. It focuses on Cholera in Kumasi, Ghana. Dr. Frank Osei came up with the hypothesis that open dumpsites may have played a role in the diffusion of cholera during the 2005 epidemic. In the video you can listen to his story.

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This video is from the free online course:

Geohealth: Improving Public Health through Geographic Information

University of Twente