Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a software planning tool to help plan response strategies during disease outbreaks. The software allows regional public health officials to test various scenarios to find which response strategies work best, what bottlenecks may arise, and which people may need backups if they themselves become ill.
[O]fficials could assess closing schools to decrease disease spread, initiate preventative media campaigns, or evaluate distributing antiviral medications to easily evaluate potential mitigation approaches.
In late September, PNNL demonstrated an early prototype of the tool during a Walla Walla County, Wash., Pandemic Influenza emergency exercise. Officials simulated an H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak and used the tool to predict resource needs and shortfalls, such as the loss of critical staff and lack of hospital beds.
“The tool illustrated how essential services can fail when critical employees became ill,” said Gay Ernst, director of emergency management in Walla Walla County. “Visualizing possible disease progression enables us to consider how many critical personnel may be unavailable at one time and plan accordingly.”
To help users also understand and visualize the effects of potential scenarios, PNNL teamed with Purdue University to add a visual analytic element to the toolkit called PanViz. It allows decision makers to visually track a simulation of spreading influenza on a video monitor. Users can toggle on and off various decision measures and visually see and examine the impact of those modifications and how they may alter the spread of the outbreak over time across counties in a state.
Press release: Pandemic toolkit offers flu with a view…