Friday, March 15, 2013

Predicting hotspots for future flu outbreaks

Public release date: 14-Mar-2013
This year's unusually long and rocky flu season would be nothing compared to the pandemic that could occur if bird flu became highly contagious among humans, which is why UCLA researchers and their colleagues are creating new ways to predict where an outbreak could emerge.

"Using surveillance of influenza cases in humans and birds, we've come up with a technique to predict sites where these viruses could mix and generate a future pandemic," said lead author Trevon Fuller, a UCLA postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability's Center for Tropical Research.

The researchers' models revealed that coastal and central China and Egypt's Nile Delta are danger zones where bird flu could combine with human flu to create a virulent kind of super-flu. Governments can prioritize these zones — and use the researchers' models to identify other hotspots — for increased monitoring of flu in humans, livestock, poultry and wild birds. That could help detect a novel flu virus before it spreads worldwide, the researchers said.
The research paper, "Predicting Hotspots for Influenza Virus Reassortment," was published March 13 in the peer-reviewed public health journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.


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