Airdate: Feb 23, 2021
Scientist: Stephen Eubank
Modeling Disease Pulse of the Populace
Tracking the behavior of someone who looks a lot like you.
Modeling Disease Pulse of the PopulaceOne way to track the spread of diseases is to build computer models which, in effect, take the pulse of our daily lives. But how do you do that for an entire diverse population? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Eubank: We build mathematical models in a computer that actually represent every single person in a big area, and we encode into that computer representation what those people are doing, how they move around and who they come into contact with. Stephen Eubank is a professor at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech.Eubank: There's no actual identifiable person in there, but it's the kind of thing that you might get from these big databases you've heard of, of how people interact. What it allows us to do, is to understand what are the weak points in the chain of transmission and how to shut those things down. We start by building a population in our computer that has a representative for each person in a real population, but it's not exactly a bunch of real people sitting in the computer. So I can't reach in and find Steven Eubank in our population. But I can find somebody who looks a lot like me, who does some of the same things I do, who goes to the same sort of places I go. In each one of these different venues, they'll come into places and into contact with people who are doing similar activities and they have similar kinds of days scheduled. And it's when you put together a million households doing the same kind of things in the same places, situated in a real city, that you start to understand who's coming into contact with whom, what they're doing when they come into contact. Maybe one family decides to go out to the beach and it's not a very windy day, so there's mosquito's all over the place. Another family is instead in an air conditioned mall. All these things make a little bit of difference and all those differences add up to make a big difference in the way disease is transmitted.We'll hear more about tracking diseases in future programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.