New mathematical model to track epidemics
A new model developed by Princeton and Carnegie Mellon researchers improves the tracking of epidemics by accounting for mutations in diseases. Now, the researchers are working to apply their model to allow leaders to evaluate the effects of countermeasures to epidemics before they deploy them.
The models currently used to track epidemics use data from doctors and health workers to make predictions about a disease's progression. Poor, the Michael Henry Strater University Professor of Electrical Engineering, said the model most widely used today is not designed to account for changes in the disease being tracked. This inability to account for changes in the disease can make it more difficult for leaders to counter a disease's spread. Knowing how a mutation could affect transmission or virulence could help leaders decide when to institute isolation orders or dispatch additional resources to an area.
If the researchers can correctly account for measures to counter the spread of disease, they could give leaders critical insights into the best steps they could take in the face of pandemics. The researchers are building on work published March 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In that article, they describe how their model is able to track changes in epidemic spread caused by the mutation of a disease organism. The researchers are now working to adapt the model to account for public health measures taken to stem an epidemic as well.
The researchers' work stems from their examination of the movement of information through social networks, which has remarkable similarities to the spread of biological infections. Notably, the spread of information is affected by slight changes in the information itself. If something becomes slightly more exciting to recipients, for example, they might be more likely to pass it along or to pass it along to a wider group of people. By modeling such variations, one can see how changes in the message change its target audience.
Obtaining accurate information is extremely difficult during an ongoing pandemic when circumstances shift daily, as we have seen with the COVID-19 virus.
(Content Courtesy: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-03/pues-nmm032420.php)