Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scientists simulate pandemic influenza outbreak in Chicago

Blacksburg, Va. – By using computer simulations and modeling, an international group of researchers including scientists from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech’s Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) have determined how a pandemic influenza outbreak might travel through a city similar in size to Chicago, Ill. This information helped them to determine the preferred intervention strategy to contain a potential flu pandemic, including what people should do to decrease the likelihood of disease transmission.

The new results, based on three different computer simulation models, are described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists involved in the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS).* MIDAS is a collaboration of research and informatics groups supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop computational models to examine interactions between infectious agents and their hosts, disease spread, prediction systems, and response strategies.

The global epidemic of avian influenza in bird populations, as well as the risk of a virulent form of the bird flu virus being transferred to humans, has made influenza pandemic preparedness a top public health priority in the United States, Europe, and other countries. The great influenza pandemic of 1918 resulted in 40 to 50 million deaths worldwide. If a pandemic were to occur today, it could cause widespread social and economic disruptions.

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