Spatial-temporal clustering analysis of yaws on Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea to enhance planning and implementation of eradication programs

by Eric Q. Mooring, Oriol Mitjà, Megan B. Murray


In the global program for the eradication of yaws, assessments of the prevalence of the disease are used to decide where to initiate mass treatment. However, the smallest administrative unit that should be used as the basis for making decisions is not clear. We investigated spatial and temporal clustering of yaws to help inform the choice of implementation unit.

Methodology/Principal findings

We analyzed 11 years of passive surveillance data on incident yaws cases (n = 1448) from Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea. After adjusting for age, sex, and trends in health-seeking, we detected three non-overlapping spatial-temporal clusters (p < 1 × 10−17, p = 1.4 × 10−14, p = 1.4 × 10−8). These lasted from 28 to 47 months in duration and each encompassed between 4 and 6 villages. We also assessed spatial clustering of prevalent yaws cases (n = 532) that had been detected in 7 biannual active case finding surveys beginning in 2013. We identified 1 statistically significant cluster in each survey. We considered the possibility that schools that serve multiple villages might be loci of transmission, but we found no evidence that incident cases of yaws among 8- to 14-year-olds clustered within primary school attendance areas (p = 0.6846).


These clusters likely reflect transmission of yaws across village boundaries; villages may be epidemiologically linked to a degree such that mass drug administration may be more effectively implemented at a spatial scale larger than the individual village.

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