If Smallpox Strikes Portland...; Tackling Major Killers: Infectious Diseases; Exclusive Online Issues; by Chris L. Barrett, Stephen G. Eubank and James P. Smith; 8 Page(s)
Suppose terrorists were to release plague in Chicago, and health officials, faced with limited resources and personnel, had to quickly choose the most effective response. Would mass administration of antibiotics be the best way to halt an outbreak? Or mass quarantines? What if a chance to nip a global influenza pandemic in the bud meant sending national stockpiles of antiviral drugs to Asia where a deadly new flu strain was said to be emerging? If the strategy succeeded, a worldwide crisis would be averted; if it failed, the donor countries would be left with less protection.
Public health officials have to make choices that could mean life or death for thousands, even millions, of people, as well as massive economic and social disruption. And history offers them only a rough guide. Methods that eradicated smallpox in African villages in the 1970s, for example, might not be the most effective tactics against smallpox released in a U.S. city in the 21st century. To identify the best responses under a variety of conditions in advance of disasters, health officials need a laboratory where "what if" scenarios can be tested as realistically as possible. That is why our group at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) set out to build EpiSims, the largest individual-based epidemiology simulation model ever created.