AAAS panel considers pandemic emergency response

February 14, 2014, Georgia Institute of Technology

When a pandemic spreads, health officials must quickly formulate a strategy to limit infections and deaths. That requires sifting through massive amounts of data in a short amount of time and organizing medical personnel who may have little information on the pandemic.

To help coordinate a rapid response to pandemics, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has designed software that combines biological data on the with of the at-risk population so that can develop a game plan to limit the pandemic's spread. The software also combs sites for real-time information on the pandemic and activities of the population.

Eva Lee, director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and HealthCare at the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, will talk about her software at the 2014 AAAS annual meeting in Chicago.

"We have developed a real-time system that will gather the demographics of the region that is being affected, and also pick up on-the-ground-data about who is available and doing what, and about movement of the affected population," Lee said. "Our work is the first to take demographic information and real-time population behavior and interlace it with the biological information to come up with a decision that health officials can actually use."

Lee is the chair of the panel titled "Emergency Response and Community Resilience via Engineering and Computational Advances." The panel is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14, from 3:00-4:30PM Chicago time.

Lee will share her experience helping federal officials respond to the H1N1 flu in 2009, as well as her experience planning an emergency response to a potential anthrax outbreak. Lee was also involved in coordinating a response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the decontamination and health screening effort in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima radiological disaster.

Other speakers on the panel include Ronald Eguchi of ImageCat Inc. in Long Beach, Calif, who will talk about inventory data capture tools to assess risk from natural disasters. Yasuaki Sakamoto, of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., will speak about improving social media for disaster response.

Emergency responders to a pandemic must quickly gather information on the biological agent to assess the characteristics of the pandemic and decide which treatment would be most effective. They also collect data on the risk factors of the individuals in the pandemic, such as the severity of patient's sickness, and if children or pregnant women are infected.

"The big challenge in a pandemic is how do you use all of this information to determine the best strategy that will give you the minimum number of total infections and mortality rate," Lee said.

Information from Lee's systems approach allows health official to determine where to allocate medical resources and personnel in the best way so that operations will be most successful. Through the software developed in her lab at Georgia Tech, officials can determine, for example, how much vaccine to give at-risk populations and how much to give to the general populations to limit the spread of infection and mortality. Officials can also map where to set up medical sites to avoid traffic gridlock and worsening the pandemic as infected patients converge on treatment sites.

"We can do a real-time optimization to tell you exactly what are the sites that you should set up and who should be going where," Lee said.

Explore further: At least one in five were infected in flu pandemic, international study suggests

Related Stories

At least one in five were infected in flu pandemic, international study suggests

January 25, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—At least one in five people in countries for which data are available were infected with influenza during the first year of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to a new study.

WHO simplifies pandemic alert system after criticism

June 10, 2013
The World Health Organization on Monday published a new plan on how to alert the world to possible flu pandemics, following harsh criticism of its handling of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Most U.S. schools unprepared for pandemics: study

August 30, 2012
(HealthDay)—Many U.S. schools are not prepared for another pandemic, according to a new study.

Majority of US Schools not ready for next pandemic, researchers say

September 17, 2012
Many U.S. schools are not prepared for bioterrorism attacks, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases or pandemics, despite the recent 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic that resulted in more than 18,000 deaths worldwide, Saint ...

Assessing disease surveillance and notification systems after a pandemic

April 3, 2013
Significant investments over the past decade into disease surveillance and notification systems appear to have "paid off" and the systems "work remarkably well," says a Georgetown University Medical Center researcher who ...

A grid approach to pandemic disease control

June 15, 2011
An evaluation of the Public Health Grid (PHGrid) technology during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic could enhance the capabilities of epidemiologists and disease-control agencies when the next emergent disease appears, according ...

Recommended for you

New study offers insights on genetic indicators of COPD risk

January 16, 2018
Researchers have discovered that genetic variations in the anatomy of the lungs could serve as indicators to help identify people who have low, but stable, lung function early in life, and those who are particularly at risk ...

Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic

January 16, 2018
While past exposure to influenza A viruses often builds immunity to similar, and sometimes different, strains of the virus, Canadian researchers are calling for more attention to exceptions to that rule.

Don't hold your nose and close your mouth when you sneeze, doctors warn

January 15, 2018
Pinching your nose while clamping your mouth shut to contain a forceful sneeze isn't a good idea, warn doctors in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

New antifungal provides hope in fight against superbugs

January 12, 2018
Microscopic yeast have been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world—creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines—and causing deadly invasive infection. One culprit species, Candida auris, is resistant ...

Dengue takes low and slow approach to replication

January 11, 2018
A new study reveals how dengue virus manages to reproduce itself in an infected person without triggering the body's normal defenses. Duke researchers report that dengue pulls off this hoax by co-opting a specialized structure ...

Different strains of same bacteria trigger widely varying immune responses

January 11, 2018
Genetic differences between different strains of the same pathogenic bacterial species appear to result in widely varying immune system responses, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.