In the 2009 novel H1N1 pandemic, several research groups used mathematical and computer models to predict the effect of different possible vaccination strategies. Such work, which included publications by the group of VIDI members Dr. Ira Longini and Dr. Betz Halloran, predicted that when vaccine was in short supply, as was the case with the H1N1 vaccine, prioritizing vaccination of children would go the farthest in stemming the pandemic.
Now, headed by VIDI staff scientist Dr. Dennis Chao, the group has publicly released the code of their influenza epidemic simulation model, called FluTE. The model contains detailed representations of American communities based on census data, including people’s interactions in the house, at school, in the workplace, on daily commutes, and on short and long trips away from their community. The model simulates the spread of influenza among these individuals with different transmission rates and different vaccination strategies.
The researchers ran their simulations for the populations of Seattle and the entire U.S., looking at scenarios with different flu transmission rates. They found that in the simulation, children become infected earlier, and that in the case of highly transmissible infections, the epidemic could peak as early as 45 days after the first case showed up. Simulations for the entire U.S. showed similar results to those for Seattle, but with a later peak.
FluTE, a publicly available stochastic influenza epidemic simulation model. Chao DL, Halloran ME, Obenchain VJ, Longini IM Jr. PLoS Comput Biol. 2010 Jan 29;6(1):e1000656.