Article InformationEdit

Title: What to do in Pandemic Flu

Author(s): Karima Nigmatulina

Affiliation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: Health Policy


An influenza pandemic has the potential to be more devastating than a nuclear exchange, and evidence suggests that the next pandemic is only a matter of time. Historical examples, such as the 1918-19 flu which killed over 40 million, have demonstrated how catastrophic the flu can be. A pandemic will place extraordinary and sustained demands on the public health and medical care systems, burden the providers of essential services, and strain the operations of all businesses.

Our model based on analytical and Monte Carlo simulations describes the spread of influenza within and between multiple communities. Focusing on mitigation strategies for global pandemic influenza, we evaluate the implementation and timing of non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies such as travel restrictions, social distancing and improved hygiene. Since human behavior will likely change during the course of a pandemic, thereby altering the dynamics of the disease, we incorporate a feedback parameter into our model to reflect altered behavior. Our results indicate that while a flu pandemic could be devastating; there are coping methods that when implemented quickly and correctly can significantly mitigate the severity of a global outbreak.

Lastly, we present how our modeling research can be incorporated into pandemic planning within a university setting. In a pandemic, academic institutions will have to make decisions about canceling classes, supporting the students left on campus, sustaining its research and laboratories, as well as many other difficult questions. We attempt to systematically analyze these issues and provide some insight using the intuition from our modeling work.

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