Journal article

Model answers or trivial pursuits? The role of mathematical models in influenza pandemic preparedness planning

J McVernon, CT McCaw, JD Mathews



The panzootic of H5N1 influenza in birds has raised concerns that the virus will mutate to spread more readily in people, leading to a human pandemic. Mathematical models have been used to interpret past pandemics and outbreaks, and to thus model possible future pandemic scenarios and interventions. We review historical influenza outbreak and transmission data, and discuss the way in which modellers have used such sources to inform model structure and assumptions. We suggest that urban attack rates in the 1918-1919 pandemic were constrained by prior immunity, that R(0) for influenza is higher than often assumed, and that control of any future pandemic could be difficult in the absence of sig..

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Awarded by National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia

Awarded by NHMRC Australian Training Research Fellowship

Funding Acknowledgements

We thank the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia for funding the database project and associated modelling work (Grant Nos 400588 and 454645). Jodie McVernon is supported by an NHMRC Australian Training Research Fellowship (No. 359238). We thank Terry Nolan, James McCaw, Lorena Brown and other colleagues for helpful comments on the draft manuscript.