Paths of Epidemics: Emory Great Teachers Lecturer Tracks Infectious
Disease Outbreaks Using Biostatistic Modeling
Dr. Ira Longini Discusses How Numbers Help Predict Course of Flu,
AIDS, and Smallpox
ATLANTA -- Ira
M. Longini, Jr., PhD, professor of biostatistics at the Rollins School
of Public Health, will give the next Emory University Great Teachers
Lecture on Thursday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m. Held in Emory's Miller-Ward
Alumni House at 815 Houston Mill Road, the lecture is free and open
to the public.
In his lecture, "Predicting
Paths of Epidemics: From Flu to AIDS to Smallpox," Dr. Longini will
discuss how epidemiologists can use numbers to prevent or stop the spread
of infectious diseases, particularly influenza and AIDS. He will also
explain how this work helps public health professionals devise the best
treatments for the diseases worldwide.
From Flu ...
Influenza epidemics are best contained by the use of vaccine. Dr. Longini
and his Emory colleagues used statistical models to estimate vaccine
efficacy and influenza infectiousness in various community settings.
The estimates were used in a simulation model to replicate flu epidemics
in a typical American community.
"The major public health
question has been what age groups should be targeted for vaccination
in order to limit the flu spreading through an entire community," Dr.
Longini says. "We found that vaccination of 50 to 70 percent of children
in the community with an appropriately efficacious vaccine could contain
flu spreading through the entire community."
... to AIDS
An estimated 40 million people in the world are infected with HIV, with
5 million new infections and 3 million deaths each year. The high costs
of antiviral agents used to treat infected people makes it difficult
to deploy the agents in most of the developing world.
"Probably the only real hope
for controlling HIV on a global scale is a cheap, effective and easy
to deploy vaccine," Dr. Longini says. "If a vaccine becomes available
over the next five years, the question becomes how we will distribute
the limited supply of such a vaccine to the world's population."
Dr. Longini and his research
staff are participating in a collaborative project with the World Health
Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and participating
countries. The purpose of the project is to develop large-scale mathematical
models to help determine the best distribution of a moderately efficacious
HIV vaccine in Kenya, Thailand, Brazil and the United States. Preliminary
results from their research in Kenya and Thailand will be presented
at the lecture.
... to Smallpox
Routine smallpox vaccinations stopped in the United States in 1972,
and smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. However, since the terrorist
attacks, there has been a fear that smallpox may be used as a terrorist
"There is a continuing scientific
debate about the most effective vaccination methods in the case of a
biological agent attack using smallpox," Dr. Longini says. "Since smallpox
vaccine can have serious side effects, this debate is best conducted
using reasonable simulations of possible attacks. Our models are standardized
to data from past smallpox epidemics, but geared to the contemporary
Dr. Longini has been a Professor
of Biostatistics at the Rollins School of Public Health since 1984.
He has made extensive contributions to the field of mathematical modeling
of infectious diseases, including influenza, HIV, cholera, and smallpox.
His work has been used to help public health professionals construct
ways of predicting paths of epidemics and fighting the spread of infectious
diseases. Dr. Longini has made significant contributions to the study
of vaccine effectiveness in the United States and developing countries.
For more information about
the Great Teacher Lecture Series, call (404) 727-5686.