Sunday, January 26, 2014

Flu news from KPBS and Virginia Tech

In this week's of the flu outbreak, which follows up to Flu update for MLK weekend, there are two stories, one from KPBS, one of the usual suspects, and Virginia Tech.

KPBS: Scripps Hospitals Screening All Visitors For Flu
By Kenny Goldberg
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
More than 1,400 San Diegans have been diagnosed with the flu so far this season. Infectious disease specialists say this year’s strain is especially powerful, and is making even healthy people extremely sick.

Dr. Davis Cracroft, medical director of Scripps Mercy Hospital, said all visitors must be screened to help prevent spreading the flu.
At least 45 people in California have died from the flu so far this season. State health officials said most victims had not received a flu shot.
Virginia Tech: Synthetic population study offers new strategy for controlling epidemics in big cities
BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 23, 2014 – Researchers in the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute are the first to model in detail how transient populations impact the spread of an illness, and how outbreaks such as influenza can be curbed by encouraging healthy behaviors in high-traffic tourist destinations.

Influenza places a huge burden upon society, both physically and economically. It is estimated that influenza costs the United States economy over $87 billion annually.

In a large city like Washington, D.C., with about 50,000 visitors on any given day who stay for just a few days, there is a constant influx of new people who are susceptible to infections. Further, they visit highly populated tourist destinations, where they come into contact with other visitors as well as residents. Disease can spread quickly.

“We built a detailed synthetic population model of Washington, D.C., including transient populations: tourists, business travelers," said Samarth Swarup, an applied computer scientist at the institute. "Our computational model shows that an influenza epidemic can be much worse when we take the impact of transients into account.”
That's it for this week.  Stay tuned for more updates until flu season is over.

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