Public health officials often struggle to determine how best to prevent the spread of infectious disease. For livestock, they can institute quarantines or culling policies; for humans, they can issue travel advisories and provide immunizations. Until recently, officials relied on research based on heuristics and trial-and-error approaches to decide when and where to implement these policies. Today, sophisticated mathematical models make use of data from past outbreaks.
University of Pennsylvania (Penn) researchers use MATLAB® to develop models of epidemics among animals. Research Triangle Institute (RTI) extends those models to simulate infectious disease outbreaks among human populations.
RTI uses MathWorks tools to run millions of simulations of the animal and human models in parallel on computer clusters. The analyses of outbreaks among humans are part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
"Using MathWorks tools we can develop sophisticated computational models and leverage the massive computing power available today to more completely describe how epidemics spread and how they can be controlled," says Chris Rorres, lecturer in epidemiology at Penn.