Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can Dynamic Mapping Reveal Clues about Flu Seasonality?

10.09.2012
Influenza outbreaks in the United States typically begin with the arrival of cold weather and then spread in seasonal waves across geographic zones. But the question of why epidemics can vary from one season to the next has baffled scientists.

In a paper titled "Deviations in Influenza Seasonality: Odd Coincidence or Obscure Consequence," Elena Naumova, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, and collaborators from the U.S. and India suggest that the search for answers has been thwarted, in part, by the lack of standardized research methods.

This paper builds on Naumova's previous work in which she suggests a role for dynamic mapping in epidemiological research. Here, the team concludes that newly emerging technologies like dynamic mapping can be used in concert with traditional approaches, which Naumova describes as "fraught with problems." The paper was published in advance of print in Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

Naumova points out several of these problems. Data collection methods are not uniform. Researchers use ambiguous terminology and definitions. Research results are not presented in a uniform manner. "This produces volumes of information—or noise—that is prone to substantial measurement error and uncertainty that potentially obscures the causes behind seasonality rather than illuminating them," she says.

Another way influenza research falls short is that it doesn't take into account the behavior of the disease as it changes across time and geography. Using dynamic mapping as a tool, Naumova, the paper's senior author, and her team analyzed hospitalization records for adults age 65 and over from across the United States during individual flu seasons in 1991, 1997, 1999, and 2003.

The data, provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, were superimposed onto national maps showing average weekly temperatures. The data were then transformed into an interactive movie from which researchers could view data, including origin and intensity of the outbreak, as they appeared over time. Each season exhibited variations in disease patterns.

For example, the 1991 outbreak originated in the Alabama-Louisiana region and then spread north. By contrast, the 1997 the epidemic started in central Tennessee. The 1999 epidemic started in western Minnesota while the 2003 epidemic spread from the gulf region of Texas and Louisiana, according to Naumova. Three of the epidemics peaked in the first week of January while a fourth peaked in the last week of December. Nationally, the average peak occurred during the third week of January.

Naumova points out that the four seasons reveal the diversity exhibited by seasonal outbreaks. "In these years we see that the outbreaks points of origin shifted, as did its geographic spread," she says.

Naumova's ongoing research involves developing mathematical models for analysis of large databases to study infectious diseases and exposure assessment. In an earlier study, researchers analyzed a larger data set from 1991 to 2004. They found that over the 13 seasons, seasonal flu outbreaks generally peaked earliest in the west and spread east.

While mapping reveals variations in peak timing, intensity, and geography, the factors that influence these parameters are unknown and require further investigation. In the larger picture, Naumova says dynamic mapping could potentially help fill a gap in influenza research.

"It would help give us insight into what kinds of questions to ask. This can lead to a framework from which we are able to develop new research questions," says Naumova, who adds that mapping is only one part of the puzzle. "We also must establish methodologies that use science-based definitions, reliable data and standard methods for presenting data and assessing statistics."

Co-authors include Mahesh Moorthy and Asha Abraham, the department of clinical virology at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India; Denise Castronovo, Mapping Sustainability, LLC; Sanjib Bhattacharyya and Steve Gradus, the City of Milwaukee Health Department; Jack Gorski and Yuri N. Naumov, the Blood Center of Wisconsin; and Nina Fefferman, department of ecology, evolution, and natural resources at Rutgers University and Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) at Rutgers.

This study was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Published online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03959.x/abstract

###

Tufts University School of Engineering Located on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus, the School of Engineering offers a rigorous engineering education in a unique environment that blends the intellectual and technological resources of a world-class research university with the strengths of a top-ranked liberal arts college. Close partnerships with Tufts' excellent undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, coupled with a long tradition of collaboration, provide a strong platform for interdisciplinary education and scholarship. The School of Engineering’s mission is to educate engineers committed to the innovative and ethical application of science and technology in addressing the most pressing societal needs, to develop and nurture twenty-first century leadership qualities in its students, faculty, and alumni, and to create and disseminate transformational new knowledge and technologies that further the well-being and sustainability of society in such cross-cutting areas as human health, environmental sustainability, alternative energy, and the human-technology interface.

Alex Reid | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.tufts.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>