Researchers tackle influenza by studying human behavior

Aug 04, 2009

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin will participate in a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fight influenza and other diseases by creating models that simulate the complex interplay between human behavior and the spread of disease.

The grant is part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program, a national network of researchers using mathematical models to help public health officials better predict, intervene and contain contagious diseases.

Researchers from Texas include Lauren Ancel Meyers, a mathematical biologist in the College of Natural Sciences and Paul Damien, a mathematician in the McCombs School of Business. Meyers is leading the project jointly with Allison Galvani at Yale University.

The group already has begun work this summer. They are trying to understand how to best use the national stockpile of flu antiviral medications such as and for the current H1N1 pandemic (swine flu). Between state and federal holdings, there are approximately 80 million courses of these drugs available.

"Who should be taking these antivirals? And when? What are the optimal choices to best save lives and prevent the spread of the ?" Meyers said. "Our models can help answers those questions."

The group has also launched a survey-based study to learn how perceptions and behavior evolve as information about the H1N1 pandemic spreads around the globe through the media.

Meyers said that as people change things like travel plans, they in turn change how the disease spreads.

Additionally, Damien said, "Take school closures as an example. It's challenging to assess when and where to close schools. Based on what metric? Percent infected? Percent likely to be infected? Only by using mathematical methods can we best quantify these uncertainties. The MIDAS program rightly encourages the use of mathematics to make better, informed decisions, and we're excited to be involved in such an effort."

Thus, there are many factors that can affect the spread of diseases including population densities, closures of schools and public places, how drugs and vaccines are distributed, cost of treatments and people's perceptions of vaccines.

"Our models will combine these factors and allow us to design public health policies that not only use resources effectively but also influence individual decision making to prevent the transmission of diseases like flu," Meyers said.

Source: University of Texas at Austin (news : web)

Explore further: Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pitt receives grant to create virtual models for epidemics

Jul 31, 2009

As the world prepares for a probable resurgence of H1N1 in the coming months, University of Pittsburgh researchers are controlling the spread of infectious diseases virtually with a $13.4 million National Institutes of Health ...

Flu vaccine distributing plans announced

Oct 03, 2006

U.S. mathematical biologists say they've developed flu vaccine distribution alternatives for use when faced with vaccine shortages during flu outbreaks.

Pandemic flu may be well mitigated until vaccine is available

Mar 10, 2008

An outbreak of pandemic influenza in the U.S. could be mitigated with prompt implementation of social-distancing measures combined with antiviral treatment and prophylaxis until a vaccine is available, according to new findings ...

Recommended for you

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

19 hours ago

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

23 hours ago

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

Dec 19, 2014

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

Dec 19, 2014

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.