Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

US Control Strategies May Make Flu Epidemics Worse, Study Shows

Date:
May 7, 2007
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Public health officials say a major concern is an outright flu pandemic, such as a human strain of avian flu. It's not a question of if such a health crisis will come but when. Are we prepared? In a word, say three UCLA researchers, no.

Regular as clockwork, the flu arrives every year. And, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population on average will come down with it. About 36,000 people will die.

But among health experts, a bigger concern than the seasonal flu is an outright flu pandemic, such as a human strain of avian flu. And officials say it is not a question of if such a health crisis will come but when. Are we prepared? In a word, say three UCLA researchers, no.

In a report to be published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Computational Biology and currently available online, Sally Blower, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and Romulus Breban and Raffaele Vardavas, postdoctoral fellows in Blower's research group, used novel mathematical modeling techniques to predict that current health policy -- based on voluntary vaccinations -- is not adequate to control severe flu epidemics and pandemics unless vaccination programs offer incentives to individuals.

According to the researchers, the severity of such a health crisis could be reduced if programs were to provide several years of free vaccinations to individuals who pay for only one year. Interestingly, however, some incentive programs could have the opposite effect. Providing free vaccinations for entire families, for example, could actually increase the frequency of severe epidemics. This is because when the head of the household makes a choice -- flu shots or no flu shots -- on behalf of all the other household members, there is no individual decision-making, and adaptability is decreased.

While other models have determined what proportion of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to prevent a pandemic, none of these models have shown whether this critical coverage can actually be reached. What has been missing, according to Blower, a mathematical and evolutionary biologist, is the human factor. The human factor involves two biological characteristics, "memory and how adaptable people can be," Blower said. "These characteristics drive human behavior."

Blower and her group used people's attitudes toward the seasonal flu to construct their model. With seasonal flu, protective immunity -- a flu shot -- lasts only one year. Thus, individuals must decide each year whether or not to participate in a vaccination program.

The model Blower's team developed is inspired by game theory, used in economics to predict how non-communicating, selfish individuals reach a collective behavior with respect to a common dilemma by adapting to what they think are other people's decisions. The group modeled each individual's strategy for making yearly vaccination decisions as an adaptive process of trial and error. They tracked both individual-level decisions and population-level variables -- that is, the yearly vaccine coverage level and influenza prevalence, where prevalence is defined as the proportion of the population that is infected. The individual-level model was based on the human biological attributes of memory and adaptability.

"We assume that the decision of each individual is based upon self-interest, that people wish to avoid coming down with the flu, preferably without having to vaccinate," said Breban.

It is the adaptive decision-making by the individual, the researchers say, that may be an important and previously overlooked causal factor in driving influenza epidemiology. "Including cognitive and personality factors into epidemic models can dramatically change our understanding of why flu epidemics occur." said Vardavas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "US Control Strategies May Make Flu Epidemics Worse, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504091504.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2007, May 7). US Control Strategies May Make Flu Epidemics Worse, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504091504.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "US Control Strategies May Make Flu Epidemics Worse, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504091504.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins