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2005-02-22

Portland ground zero of computer-simulated smallpox outbreak: Why we just might find SMS alerting useful

A discussion over in rec.arts.sf.fandom on of the possibilities of pandemics of H5N1 influenza, kinda makes yesterday's post on mass alerts via cellphone SMS texting relevant. It inspired me to put together this story, which I stumbled across at Christopher Franconis' (aka BiX) most excellent blog COMMUNIQUE .

Start with this illustration from a fascinating Scientific American article in which a very rich computer simulation, one far more detailed than previous state of the art in epidemiological modelling, estimates the possible consequences of a smallpox outbreak in Portland, OR. Yes, right here in River City.

Got N100? Or a Stryker? Anyway, I digress. Often...

Make sure to look at the difference between quick vaccination and inactivity.

An overview of the study authors' concept (they're from Los Alamos, BTW), and a quote from the February, 2005 Scientific American issue, in which this was detailed
Our group was able to construct this kind of individual-based epidemic model on a scale of millions of people by using high-performance supercomputing clusters and by building on an existing model called TRANSIMS developed over more than a decade at Los Alamos for urban planning [see "Unjamming Traffic with Computers," by Kenneth R. Howard; Scientific American, October 1997]. The TRANSIMS project started as a means of better understanding the potential effects of creating or rerouting roads and other transportation infrastructure. By giving us a way to simulate the movements of a large population through a realistic urban environment, TRANSIMS provided the foundation we needed to model the interactions of millions of individuals for EpiSims.

Although EpiSims can now be adapted to different cities, the original TRANSIMS model was based on Portland, Ore. The TRANSIMS virtual version of Portland incorporates detailed digital maps of the city, including representations of its rail lines, roads, signs, traffic signals and other transportation infrastructure, and produces information about traffic patterns and travel times. Publicly available data were used to generate 180,000 specific locations, a synthetic population of 1.6 million residents, and realistic daily activities for those people.

Integrating all this information into a computer model provides the best estimate of physical contact patterns for large human populations ever created. With EpiSims, we can release a virtual pathogen into these populations, watch it spread and test the effects of different interventions. But even without simulating a disease outbreak, the model provides intriguing insights into human social networks, with potentially important implications for epidemic response.

Their social modelling, illustrated, with Sims, no less... well, 'EpiSims', and, much, much more detail.

BTW, they're also working on a Portland model for an influenza outbreak.

Knew, someday, we'd have that capability, back when I worked in Public Health, and now it seems to actually work. That's especially good, because the Evil Empire created hundreds of tons of weaponized anthrax and smallpox. Now, if we could only get the damn doctors to wash their hands......

Maybe 'Dirty War' on KOPB & PBS Wednesday night at nine (repeat 0300 Friday) might help folks understand what a thin edge we skate on. What, maybe 5% of all cargo containers are actually inspected?

What's more sad is the censorship of the program. I've trained for this, and understand that if/when I have to come out of a 'hot zone', I'm getting a scrub-'til-it-nearly-bleeds decontamination, al fresco, in front of several folks in moon suits who will be too busy to critique anyone for their physique or lack thereof. But, the FCC has to prevent that little bit of reality from soaking in (no pun intended), so when the inevitable CBRN event happens (whether Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear), Mr & Mrs John Q. Public will not have considered they must submit to the rough ministration of total strangers. They will balk, because < 5 seconds of skin is a greater offense to Imperial America than saving the lives of the contaminated. Some of those who balk will get shot, because every cop and Guardsman in sight will be nervous as hell. But, it's not like that was important, compared to the risk of seeing people go through a realistic decontamination so's they can get used to the idea. And their little dogs, too. {/rant off}.

And, many thanks to WNCU, whose Shoutcasted radio-over-Internet transmissions kept me writing much longer than I should. Should send 'em a Cheerwine.

Ping/trackback to COMMUNIQUE - gotta figure out how this works
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"Nobody but a fool goes into a federal counterrorism operation without duct tape" - Richard Preston, THE COBRA EVENT.

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