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Supercomputers To Assist In Thwarting Bird Flu Epidemic In Future

Supercomputers can now be used during health emergencies like predicting about the development of a diseases and its course as well. // Scientists have devised a simulator, which could make stark predictions about the possible course of bird flu pandemic based on today's environment of worldwide connectivity. The research, by a team of scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science online the week of April 3-7, and in the print issue of April 11.

The large-scale, stochastic simulation model examines the nationwide spread of a pandemic influenza virus strain, such as an evolved avian H5N1 virus, should it become transmissible human-to-human. The simulation rolls out a city- and census-tract-level picture of the spread of infection through a synthetic population of 281 million people over the course of 180 days, and examines the impact of interventions, from antiviral therapy to school closures and travel restrictions, as the vaccine industry struggles to catch up with the evolving virus.

“Based on the present work . . . we believe that a large stockpile of avian influenza-based vaccine containing potential pandemic influenza antigens, coupled with the capacity to rapidly make a better-matched vaccine based on human strains, would be the best strategy to mitigate pandemic influenza,” say the authors, Timothy Germann, Kai Kadau, Ira Longini and Catherine Macken.

“It's probably not going to be practical to contain a potential pandemic by merely trying to limit contact between people (such as by travel restrictions, quarantine or even closing schools), but we find that these measures are useful in buying time to produce and distribute sufficient quantities of vaccine and antiviral drugs,” said Germann of Los Alamos’ Applied Physics Division.

“Based on
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