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Pitt receives $13.4 million NIH grant to create virtual models for epidemics
Date:7/31/2009

PITTSBURGH, July 31 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 (NIH) grant to establish a Center of Excellence in Modeling of Infectious Diseases. The five-year grant, part of the NIH's Modeling of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program, funds the development and testing of computer simulations that will ultimately enable public health officials and policymakers to evaluate intervention strategies to contain infectious disease outbreaks.

The center, led by Donald S. Burke, M.D., dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, uses census and other data sets to build simulations of individuals as they move about and interact with one another through schools, workplaces, households and communities. By modeling their contacts, the Pitt team is working to determine the likelihood a person will spread the disease to others, and to evaluate which interventions might be the most effective such as school closings, travel restrictions, hand washing, vaccines or a combination of these techniques.

"Stopping the spread of infectious diseases remains one of the most significant public health challenges of our time," Dr. Burke said. "It is difficult to predict how infectious disease control strategies will work because the spread of infection through a population depends on a multitude of factors. But by testing interventions 'in silico' before an epidemic occurs, we can work through which strategies will be the most likely to succeed in preventing illness and death."

"The MIDAS center at the University of Pittsburgh brings together an exceptionally talented group of investigators," said Irene Eckstrand, Ph.D., who co-directs the MIDAS program at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the NIH. "Their diverse areas
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Contact: Clare Collins
CollCX@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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