"These findings predicting potential outbreak sites can help decision-makers prioritize the most important areas where people, poultry and livestock should be vaccinated and animals should be monitored for novel viruses, which could help predict and prevent the next pandemic," he said.
The researchers looked for locations where bird flu outbreaks, human flu outbreaks and swine populations overlapped to predict hotspots where reassortment is more likely, using a $1.3 million grant from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health.
The research focused on two flu strains that studies in mice have shown can combine with lethal results: the seasonal H3N2 human flu, and the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has occasionally crossed over into humans. Currently, H5N1 has a 60 percent mortality rate in humans but is not known to spread between humans frequently.
While the World Health Organization has identified six countries as hosts to ongoing, widespread bird flu infections in poultry in 2011 China, Egypt, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh the UCLA researchers and their colleagues had limited data to work with. Not all flu outbreaks, whether bird or human, are tracked. The scientists had to identify indicators of flu outbreaks, such as dense poultry populations, or rain and temperatures that encourage flu transmission.
"For each type of flu, we identified variables that were predictive of the various virus strains," Fuller said. "We wanted a map of predictions continuously across the whole country, including locations where we didn't have data on flu outbreaks."
Although the researchers had bird flu data for parts of both China and Egypt, other countries, suc
|Contact: Alison Hewitt|
University of California - Los Angeles