Texas researchers tackle influenza by studying human behavior

August 04, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas--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 Tamiflu and Relenza 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 swine flu?" 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.
-end-


University of Texas at Austin

Related Swine Flu Articles from Brightsurf:

Swine flu vaccination in pregnant women did not increase risk of autism in offspring
Two recent studies were unable to rule out that H1N1 ('swine flu') vaccination ('Pandemrix') and seasonal influenza vaccination given to pregnant women might be associated with autism-spectrum disorder in the offspring.

Flu, flu-like illnesses linked to increased risk of stroke, neck artery tears
Flu-like illnesses are associated with an increased risk of stroke and neck artery dissection.

ID'ing features of flu virus genome may help target surveillance for pandemic flu
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified features of the influenza virus genome that affect how well the virus multiplies.

The risk of type 1 diabetes not increased by swine flu vaccine Pandemrix
There has been a fear that the swine flu vaccine, Pandemrix, would increase the risk of autoimmune diseases other than narcolepsy.

Yarraman flu or horse flu? Words and graphics influence willingness to vaccinate
'Yarraman flu is a virus quickly infecting the US...' The mock announcement was enough to make readers worry.

Flu nasal spray provides similar protection against influenza as flu shot: Study
For the study, the research team conducted a three-year trial in a Hutterite colony, where people live communally and are relatively isolated from cities and towns, to determine whether vaccinating children and adolescents with the flu nasal spray provided better direct and community protection than the standard flu shot.

Researchers discover the 2009 swine flu pandemic originated in Mexico
The 2009 swine H1N1 flu pandemic -- responsible for more than 17,000 deaths worldwide -- originated in pigs from a very small region in central Mexico, a research team headed by investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is reporting.

Threat of novel swine flu viruses in pigs and humans
The wide diversity of flu in pigs across multiple continents, mostly introduced from humans, highlights the significant potential of new swine flu strains emerging, according to a study to be published in eLife.

Simulation study shows that pandemic swine flu had a minor impact in Finland
Researchers have used modeling to estimate the true impact of infectious diseases, such as swine flu, when underreporting can mean the surveillance from time of the pandemic can miss the vast majority of infections that occur in the population.

Where flu vaccination rates are higher in adults under 65, lower flu risk for seniors
Healthy adults who get the flu vaccine may help protect not only themselves but also older adults in their community at higher risk for serious complications from influenza, suggest findings from a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Read More: Swine Flu News and Swine Flu Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.