Simulation science takes on Zika with big data

The Biocomplexity Institute's Zika modeling team. From left to right: Bryan Lewis, James Schlitt, and Pyrros Telionis.

The Biocomplexity Institute’s Zika modeling team. From left to right: Bryan Lewis, James Schlitt, and Pyrros Telionis.

In recent weeks, Zika has proven much more problematic than first expected, and the World Health Organization has named Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Researchers at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech are developing a new computer model of Zika that may predict how it will move through South American and North American populations.

“We are developing novel analytical and  decision-support tools that provide epidemiologists unprecedented access and information to plan, respond, and control pandemics,” said Christopher Barrett, executive director of the Biocomplexity Institute. “Our global synthetic information database is one of a kind and can be quickly reconfigured to provide situated decision-making capabilities. The technology has been developed over two decades and honed during its use by analysts during the H1N1, MERS, and the recent Ebola outbreak.”

Although Zika can affect adults, it is the unborn who are most at risk. Cases of microcephaly have skyrocketed in Brazil in the past several months. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species of mosquito carry the disease.

Initial computer simulations have also suggested the importance of human mobility in the rapid spread of Zika. The researchers hope to use the data to develop disease risk maps. They are also studying the social and economic impacts of the disease as well as potential approaches to contain its impact during the Olympics, which will be hosted in Brazil this August.

The computer models of the institute’s Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory are the result of decades of research in developing computer models for epidemics and other large, complex systems.

“Through years of supporting real-world-driven demonstration studies, we’ve been able to continuously improve and refine our increasingly powerful simulations, allowing us to provide support to several branches of the federal government,” said Bryan Lewis, computational epidemiologist.

The laboratory uses a novel approach based on the concept of synthetic information to develop highly resolved computer simulations.  “The approach combines big data methods with social and behavioral theories to develop realistic and highly detailed representations of epidemic spread through social networks. They capture both the local human habitat, including built infrastructure, as well as that of the disease vector,” said Madhav Marathe, deputy director of the laboratory.

“Combined with high-performance computer-generated simulations of disease dynamics, the laboratory provides innovative approaches for situation assessment, planning, and course of action during an epidemic outbreak,” Marathe said.

In the case of Zika, this allows researchers to forecast the spread of the disease through understanding the roles of a multitude of factors, especially human mobility and the natural environment. These models can then help analysts develop and assess various courses of action to combat the disease.

The institute has recently completed a detailed synthetic representation of Brazil, a highly resolved and realistic representation based on geospatial and population data, including census data, maps, travel and mobility patterns, and built and natural environments. Researchers worked closely with  Brazilian health authorities to develop this synthetic representation.

augusta free press
augusta free press news

UVA Basketball Fans!

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

Dick Vitale on Team of Destiny: “This is a hoops story you will LOVE! Jerry and Chris capture the sensational and dramatic championship journey by Tony Bennett and his tenacious Cavalier team. UVA was Awesome Baby and so is this book!”

Ralph Sampson on Team of Destiny: “Jerry and Chris have lived and seen it all, even before my time. I highly recommend this book to every basketball fan across the globe. This story translates to all who know defeat and how to overcome it!”

Buy here.

AFP Business

As professional consultants, Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including website design, SEO, TV/radio, video work, branding and logos, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation. Augusta Free Press LLC was founded in 2002.

Web Design

Augusta Free Press has designed more than 800 websites for clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia. We take care of all facets of web design – visual design, layout design, content development and SEO. Short on staff? We’ll work with you to update your AFP-designed website in a timely manner or train your staff to make changes.

Marketing/Social Media Management

Augusta Free Press manages advertising campaigns for small- and medium-sized businesses across Virginia. You don’t need to hire a full-time marketing coordinator. Bring the experience of the Augusta Free Press team to work for you – for a fraction of the cost.

Graphic Design

Augusta Free Press will help you take your vision to the next level. From branding and logos to print materials, our team will work with you to develop products to showcase your business. From brochures and rack cards to full-color magazines or print/digital ads, we’ve got you covered.

Event Planning/Fundraising

Augusta Free Press will help you plan the best event for your organization. From an open house or anniversary to a 5K or Pay Per View, we can handle it all. Looking for training for your sales staff? We can help energize your employees or board. Need ideas to raise more money? Let us help you plan a successful event. Want to hold a news conference or need help with a press release? We can do that too.

Click here for more.