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Scientific literature on viral disease, specifically ones like Zika and Dengue, contains seroprevalence data. What is the reason behind understanding seroprevalence?

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Seroprevalence tests people for the presence of a disease based on serologic methods. Often you do ELISA (or related methods) to test for pathogen specific antibodies.

This gives you information on how common a disease is, especially when it might infect people without them showing symptoms. It also can help detecting cross-protection when the seroprevalence is lower than expected. This is something shown in micronesia, where the seroprevalence was much lower than expected (from: Zika Virus Seroprevalence, French Polynesia, 2014–2015)

Our findings show that <50% of the population of French Polynesia had detectable Zika virus IgG. This seroprevalence rate is much lower than the 86% attack rate estimated by Kucharski et al. (14) using a model that assumed the French Polynesia population was 100% susceptible to Zika virus infection. However, in a setting where DENVs are highly prevalent (8), the possibility of cross-protecting immunity preventing infection from Zika virus (12,13) cannot be excluded. The attack rate and the asymptomatic:symptomatic ratio in French Polynesia were also lower than those described for the 2007 outbreak on Yap Island (73% and 4:1, respectively) (4); this finding supports the perception that the drivers of Zika virus transmission vary depending on geographic context. For other flaviviruses, such as DENV, previous model-based studies showed that the herd immunity threshold required to block viral transmission is ≈50%–85% (15). Thus, if Zika virus has the same epidemiologic characteristics as DENV, the seroprevalence rate of 49% would not be sufficient to prevent another outbreak.

It can also help to make predictions about the spreading of a disease. With a high seroprevalence epidemic spreading is unlikely, while this is pretty much different with a low prevalence. This is something which was observed in Brazil when Zika occured there first.

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