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Lower Vaccination Rates Make Texas Cities Susceptible to Measles Outbreaks

Austin Measles SimulationA University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study found that large and small cities in Texas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to measles outbreaks due to more parents exempting their children from required vaccinations. Texas is the largest state by population that allows parents to opt their children out of vaccinations for nonmedical reasons making it an interesting place to study measles outbreaks. If the vaccination rate among students in Texas continues to decrease in schools with undervaccinated populations, the potential number of cases associated with measles outbreaks is estimated to increase exponentially. The 2018 vaccination rates in multiple metropolitan areas may permit large measles outbreaks, which could infect not only vaccine refusers but also other members of the population. These findings, published in JAMA Open Network on August 21, 2019, indicate that an additional 5% decrease in vaccination rates, which have been on a downward trend since 2003, would increase the size of a potential measles outbreak by up to 4,000% in some communities.

The Texas Pediatric Society asked the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to model Texas using FRED (Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics), a software platform developed at the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health as a tool for creating simulation models of dynamic processes in human social systems. FRED allows researchers to see how measles could spread from person to person. According to lead author, David Sinclair, "If policy stays as it is and there is no change in the public's perspective of vaccinations and the importance of vaccinating their children, then the potential measles outbreaks will only get worse". When there is "geographic clustering" of unvaccinated people, potential outbreaks get worse.

Pitt Public Health Leads New MIDAS Network Coordination Center

 Wilbert van Panhuis

Pitt Public Health will lead a multidisciplinary group of computer scientists, biostatisticians and biomedical informatics experts to direct the inaugural Network Coordination Center for the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), a collaborative research network originally launched by the NIH in 2004 to assist the nation in preparing for infectious disease threats. Backed by a five-year, $6.7 million NIH grant, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health will support an open, community-driven discovery process where all scientists and the broader community have the chance to analyze datasets. Leading the new center is Wilbert van Panhuis, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health and biomedical informatics at Pitt's School of Medicine. "The scientific community is increasingly recognizing that sharing research data and software not only benefits individual research projects, but increases the impact of science and innovation on the greater good. However, nobody's figured out exactly how to do this for global infectious diseases. What we're going to do is leverage that interest in 'open science' to create a framework that will make it easy to share, find and use research data and software to combat infectious diseases," said Van Panhuis. Click here to read the May 20, 2019 press release.

 

Dengue Immunity May Protect Against Zika

mosquitoAn international team of scientists led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Yale School of Public Health, and the University of Florida reported in the February issue of Science that the higher a person's immunity to dengue virus, the lower their risk of Zika infection. The study, which followed nearly 1,500 people living in a poor neighborhood at the heart of the 2015 Zika outbreak in Brazil, also provides evidence that Brazil's Zika epidemic has largely petered out because enough people acquired immunity to reduce the efficiency of transmission. "Take that with a grain of salt, though. Our study was in a very small urban area, and it is likely that in other parts of Brazil, even different neighborhoods within the same city, people are still susceptible to Zika infection," said co-senior author Ernesto T.A. Marques, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and public health researcher at Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil.

Paradoxically, computational models by co-senior author Derek A.T. Cummings, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Florida, showed that participants who had a very recent dengue infection were actually more susceptible to Zika. Possible explanations include protective antibodies have not developed yet or there is something about the immune systems of these people that increases their risk of contracting Zika; or the mosquitoes that transmit dengue also transmit Zika, so a recent dengue infection could mean they are in a place where Zika transmission is active as well. Additional study is needed to determine how these findings could prove useful to clinicians.

 

Fall 2018 Modeling Behavior Conference and Workshop

Modeling conference art

A Modeling Social Dynamics and Health Behavior Conference will be sponsored by The Center for Social Dynamics & Community Health, the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL) and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh on Friday, October 26, 2018. This conference will bring together national leaders from across the country to discuss the integration of modeling approaches into the field of behavior and community health sciences. Through panel discussions and breakout sessions, attendees will learn about existing research, discuss associated challenges and opportunities, and chart a path forward for this emerging field. Keynote speaker will be Thomas W. Valente, PhD, Professor of Preventive Medicine, Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

A half-day Pre-Conference Behavior Modeling Workshop will be hosted at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health on Thursday, October 25, 2018. The workshop will highlight modeling using the Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED), an agent-based modeling and simulation platform.

There no is cost and registration is required for both events. Learn more, and register by October 12, 2018 at www.ctsi.pitt.edu/modelingClick here to read the announcement.

 

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