As swine flu spreads across America, good data can make all the difference in controlling it.
Who needs to get antiviral medications first? Who can wait? When should counties and states shut down airports, schools, and highways? When should they tell people to stay home from school and work?
As America and the world braces for the worst, a team of Tel Aviv University mathematicians says it may have a solution that can save both time and lives. Prof. Lewi Stone and his colleagues at TAU's Department of Life Sciences are creating a statistical tool which, they believe, has the power to macro- and micromanage pandemic influenza outbreaks.
Their secret weapon is the most extensive database in the world dealing with influenza outbreaks. "We've accessed a veritable gold-mine of data, collected over 10 years in Israel by a large network of hospital and medical clinics," says Prof. Stone. "It gives us a country-wide picture of what a seasonal flu is like and how much worse it would be if there were a swine flu pandemic."
The best data in the world
Two American teams tried to predict what would happen to the swine flu when it started infecting Americans, with limited success. The Israeli team believes that their approach a set of modeling tools modular in design will be more successful. One reason is their impressive data set. Another is the modular way the model is conceived: The models are complicated when the existing data is good, simpler when key variables are missing.
"Based on our study of influenza outbreaks in Israel," says Dr. Amit Huppert of the Gertner Institute at Israel's Tel Hashomer Hospital, who is collaborating on the research, "we can estimate the rate at which the virus spreads in towns with a very young population. These communities are especially at risk. Communities in the U.S. with a high population of children can be advised to stock up on anti-virals."
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University