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Researchers fight cholera with computer forecasting
Date:8/10/2011

AUSTIN, Texas Just as the rainy season is driving a new surge of cholera cases in Haiti, a new computational model could forecast where outbreaks are likely to occur.

Researchers at Ohio State University are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the project, in the hopes of targeting anti-cholera efforts where they are most needed in the earthquake-ravaged country.

Just back from a 10-day trip to the Artibonite Valley in Haiti, Ohio State researcher Marisa Eisenberg described the model's early results at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in Austin.

One question was whether the deadly disease is spreading primarily through contaminated environmental water or through human contact for example, through contaminated food. That knowledge would enable the CDC and relief agencies to focus limited resources on counteracting one means of transmission or the other.

"According to our preliminary findings, it's both," said Eisenberg, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State. "We can't neglect either source of transmission."

As they continue to process the data, the researchers hope to identify typical patterns of cholera outbreaks, and identify "hotspots" regions that are key to controlling the spread of the disease.

The CDC approached computer modelers about the problem in November 2010. Among them was Eisenberg's collaborator, Joseph Tien, professor of mathematics at Ohio State, who had previously identified patterns in data from the 19th Century cholera epidemics in London.

The resulting study, which he and Eisenberg published with Canadian collaborators in the Annals of Internal Medicine in May 2011, revealed the disease's cyclical nature: When a new strain of cholera invades a country, the epidemic typically starts with an initial wave of cases in the fall, then erupts into much larger outbreaks the following summ
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Contact: Marisa Eisenberg
meisenberg@mbi.osu.edu
614-292-6159
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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