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Math prof offers swine flu forecast

Large-scale computer simulations run by Northwestern University researchers show worst-case scenario projections of more than 100 swine flu cases in the Chicago area over the next four weeks.


Large-scale computer simulations run by Northwestern University researchers show worst-case scenario projections of more than 100 swine flu cases in the Chicago area over the next four weeks.

The models suggest a total of about 1,700 cases of swine flu nationwide over the same time span.

Worst-case scenario means that no measures have been taken to combat the spread of disease. These numbers would, of course, be lessened by preventive measures already under way.

The major areas shown to have incidents in the worst-case scenario include California, Texas and Florida. The affected locations largely correspond to major transportation hubs in the country. The researchers also will be running simulations on the possible time course of the spread of swine flu in Europe.

Dirk Brockmann, associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, leads the research group.

He has expertise in running simulations and computational models of pandemic diseases and in human transportation networks, which is important to understanding how disease spreads.

Brockmann says the NU team’s swine flu results are in excellent agreement to those of a research group at Indiana University led by Alex Vespignani that is using a different method.

“The Indiana group uses a different computational approach, and the agreement of our results is promising and an indicator of reliability in both methods,” says Brockmann.

A map of the United States showing the four-week projection is available online.

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