Airliners can spread avian flu virus
H5N1 avian influenza, commonly referred to as bird
flu, has not yet resulted in a pandemic influenza because the virus lacks the
ability to spread efficiently and sustainably among humans.
However, public health officials are greatly concerned that a human flu
strain could be triggered by the H5N1
virus, which is found in bird flocks around the world and has repeatedly crossed
the species barrier and infected people. An Indiana University
School of Informatics
-led team of researchers has devised a model that
predicts how a rising epidemic influenza might spread across the globe by
"The threat of a pandemic is pushing the international community to discuss
scenario analysis and develop adequate preparedness plans," said Vittoria
Colizza, one of the investigators in the study.
The model already was introduced in a previous study conducted by the same
researchers more than a year ago, showing in detail how
air-transportation-network properties are responsible for the worldwide pattern
of diseases. Using advanced computational tools, the team was able in both
studies to simulate how an influenza pandemic would spread, both over time and
geographically, and to provide forecasted scenarios and confidence
The researchers show that strict travel restrictions would do little, if
anything, to prevent the flu from spreading throughout the globe. Encouragingly,
the model predicts that the use of antiviral drugs would significantly thwart a
global flu outbreak within certain ranges of infectiousness if every country in
the world had a drug stockpile sufficient to treat 5-10% of their
Next, the study focused on realistic scenarios in which antiviral resources
are not equally distributed, with a higher concentration in wealthy countries.
Different strategies are compared: a selfish strategy in which each country
relies on its own supplies, as opposed to a cooperative approach in which
prepared countries would donate part of their resources for global use.
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