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"The main reasons that we should not be afraid of a reprise of the 1918 experience are that we have much more knowledge, which makes it possible to contain outbreaks more expeditiously and effectively," said Alcabes, an associate professor of urban public health at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
What concerns Alcabes is overreaction to the swine flu and the ways to treat it. He recalled the 1976 disaster at Fort Dix, N.J. Thousands of people claimed side effects from a swine flu vaccine administered after an outbreak that never spread. The flu vaccine in general is considered very safe.
If it does evolve into a more virulent strain, a much greater number of people will need to be vaccinated. Vaccine makers could add the pandemic strain to the regular seasonal vaccine, but adding that extra strain reduces the number of doses they can make.
We are using high performance computational techniques and multi-layer, large scale computer simulations to project the time course of the H1N1 flu epidemic in the United States. Our simulations yield projections and risk assessments of the epidemic outbreak in a worst case scenario, in which no containment measures are taken to mitigate the spread. Therefore, the actual case numbers are expected to be smaller as mitigation strategies and containment efforts become effective. We are constantly updating our forecast, taking into account new information on confirmed cases and more precise information on the transmissibilty and disease-specific parameters.