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Modeling Disease Spread, Including Flu

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Newswise — The Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) is a collaborative research network funded by the National Institutes of Health that uses computational, statistical and mathematical models to understand the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza, pertussis, West Nile disease, dengue fever and cholera.

Since its inception nearly 10 years ago, MIDAS has pioneered the use of computational and mathematical models to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious disease threats. In addition to doing basic quantitative and computational biology, MIDAS works closely with local, state and federal public health agencies to facilitate the use of modeling in decision making.

Current MIDAS activities include:

• Designing a software program called FRED that uses high-performance computing to create virtual outbreaks and deliver the results to a smartphone. The approach could enable public health officials to employ modeling tools even when they aren’t at their computers.

• Developing models for the emergence of drug resistance in influenza, tuberculosis and other diseases to study the implications for clinical decision making.

• Using large-scale computational modeling to explore the dynamics of MRSA among incarcerated and other communities on the south side of Chicago.

• Creating a computer activity to teach high school students how epidemiologists study outbreaks and use mathematics and computation to help make public health decisions about vaccine distribution and school closures, for example.

• Building detailed virtual human populations for many countries, including the United States, China, Thailand, Mexico and Argentina. These populations allow investigators to simulate social networks, transmission dynamics and the impact of behavior and policies on disease spread.

To learn more about MIDAS, visit To arrange an interview with MIDAS scientific director, Irene A. Eckstrand, Ph.D., contact NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or

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