MIT investigates better methods for preventing and responding to flu outbreaks

Better methods to preventing and responding to flu outbreaks
Better methods to preventing and responding to flu outbreaks | Courtesy of

Researchers from MIT recently published a paper that evaluates the best methods of reducing the likelihood of contracting the flu by regularly using non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and effectively deploying the vaccine.

The scientists have stated that the mean number of infections from influenza are directly generated from newly infected people. Because of this, the number of influenza infections can be manipulated within its numerical value depending on the actions of the people living in the local environment. Researchers determined this with mathematical analysis and models of historical events as well as conversations with experts on the flu. These studies suggest that R0 is not a single value, as is often portrayed by prominent health organizations of today, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The researchers cited the 2009 H1N1 outbreak to show that flu vaccine deployment tend to arrive late and in limited quantities for novel flu viruses. The distribution plan is typically used by the CDC only send vaccine units to areas according to the state’s proportion compared to the U.S. Census population for each state. This model does not take into account the flu’s progression in each individual state.

This method would send flu vaccines to states that have already finished their bouts with the flu, so the vaccine is not valuable to those regions. These vaccines would be better used if sent to regions hard hurt by the flu.

For more details, the paper is titled “Engineering Effective Responses to Influenza Outbreaks.” It was published by Service Science.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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