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Computer models to simulate hypothetical outbreak of avian flu

A group of scientists who are developing computer models to combat infectious diseases have focused their attention on the H5N1 strain of the bird influenza virus. By simulating the outbreak of this potentially deadly avian flu in a hypothetical human community, the researchers hope to answer key questions about how best to contain the virus. The work is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Preliminary results from the models could be available by early January 2005.

"We need to take steps to prepare for the possibility of person-to-person transmission of the H5N1 virus," said Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., NIGMS director. "This modeling project will provide a tool that policymakers, public health workers and researchers can use to test intervention strategies should such an outbreak emerge."

The flu project is part of a national effort, called the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), to develop computational models of the interactions between infectious agents and their hosts, disease spread, prediction systems and response strategies. The participating research teams are led by scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md.; Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.; Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; and Research Triangle Institute International in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

To simulate the spread of a possible avian flu outbreak that would become infectious between humans, the researchers are developing models of a hypothetical Southeast Asian community of about 500,000 people living in neighboring small towns. The computer simulations will incorporate data on population density and age structure, distribution of schools, locations of hospitals and clinics, travel and the infectiousness of the virus.

These simulation models will allow researchers to test different intervention strategies that
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Contact: Emily Carlson
carlsone@nigms.nih.gov
301-496-7301
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
15-Nov-2004


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