April 1, 2020
This article was first published in COSMOS.
*Written by: Professor Jodie McVernon and Professor James McCaw
Mathematical models of infectious disease are representations of the way infections spread between individuals, in households, and through society. They can be used to anticipate the likely future impacts of a disease, and to consider how well public health interventions, treatments and vaccines might reduce infection transmission, and limit severe outcomes.
Models have a particular role to play in planning for the emergence of novel diseases, such as pandemic influenza or COVID-19. By definition, we don’t know when or where they will emerge, how infectious they will be, or how severe. Without such knowledge, we can model different scenarios to think in advance about different disease control strategies that would be effective and proportionate. These models can also be used to estimate requirements for essential resources, like hospital beds and personal protective equipment.
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* Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory Epidemiology Unit, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The University of Melbourne, Australia | Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Australia