What Next For The Ebola Outbreak? Here’s What The Math Says

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By David Freeman

Everyone’s talking about Ebola–and no wonder, now that the deadly disease has been diagnosed in the U.S. for the first time ever.

Will the mini-outbreak in Dallas be contained, as public health officials keep reassuring us? Or are we on the cusp of a major epidemic here at home?

Many factors go into determining the answers to those questions, of course, including the reliability and resourcefulness of our health-care system. But as Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers explains in this interview with HuffPost Science editor David Freeman, outbreaks of infectious diseases are governed by complex mathematics.

Dr. Meyers is a professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas in Austin and a pioneer in the mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. She says that one key concept in mathematical epidemiology is what is known as the “basic reproduction number” associated with Ebola. That’s the average number of secondary infections caused by each case–in other words, when someone becomes infected with Ebola, the number of other people he/she is likely to infect.

“The reproduction number provides a lot of information,” Meyers says. “It gives us a baseline for projecting the growth of outbreaks in the absence of intervention, and it tells us how hard and how effective do our interventions have to be in order to stop an epidemic.”

To hear the full interview with Dr. Meyers, click on the link above.

The interview was originally broadcast on Sharon, Connecticut radio station WHDD/Robin Hood Radio. Scroll down for more Science Insider interviews.

Read more here:: Huffintonpost


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