Are epidemic growth rates more informative than reproduction numbers?
Parag KV., Thompson RN., Donnelly CA.
Summary statistics, often derived from simplified models of epidemic spread, inform public health policy in real time. The instantaneous reproduction number, Rt, is predominant among these statistics, measuring the average ability of an infection to multiply. However, Rt encodes no temporal information and is sensitive to modelling assumptions. Consequently, some have proposed the epidemic growth rate, rt, i.e., the rate of change of the log-transformed case incidence, as a more temporally meaningful and model-agnostic policy guide. We examine this assertion, identifying if and when estimates of rt are more informative than those of Rt. We assess their relative strengths both for learning about pathogen transmission mechanisms and for guiding public health interventions in real time.