Modeling the spread of influenza infection — two new articles from BMC Medicine

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When will the next wave of influenza A (H1N1) or “swine flu” infections occur, how quickly will they spread, and are there dangers of new emerging human strains?

These are some of the questions addressed in two recent papers published by BMC Medicine, both of which use mathematical modeling to make predictions about the spread of this virus if effective management strategies are not employed.

In the first article entitled ‘Seasonal transmission potential and activity peaks of the new influenza A (H1N1): a Monte Carlo likelihood analysis based on human mobility’, Duygu Balcan and colleagues from the United States, France and Italy use simulations to predict the possibility that the next peak of infection in the Northern Hemisphere could occur in late October/early November, before the seasonal vaccines are able to be widely implemented.  The authors suggest that additional measures may be required in order to shift this peak and to ensure that vaccination will be maximally effective

In the second article, entitled ‘Modelling the progression of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in Vietnam and the opportunities for reassortment with other influenza viruses’, Maciej Boni and colleagues from Vietnam and the United Kingdom predict the spread of the virus in Vietnam, a densely populated country, with a high level of human-animal contact, predicting that pandemic H1N1 infection could rise to epidemic proportions in less than 60 days without containment.  This article highlights the potential for genetic reassortment with other influenza strains, leading to the possible development of further novel human strains of the virus.

Together, these papers highlight the need for a multi-pronged intervention strategy in order to weaken the severity of a pandemic infection, to minimise the risk of development of new strains, and to delay the predicted peak of infections in order to allow effective vaccination deployment.

Interested in learning more about mathematical modeling for the study of influenza?  Read more in the recent review from Editorial Board member Sally Blower’s group.

For more on the latest developments in pandemic influenza A(H1N1) research from BioMed Central, check out our Influenza Gateway.

Robin Cassady-Cain
In-House Editor, BMC Medicine