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Universal Paid Sick Leave Reduces Spread of Flu, According to Pitt Simulation

Supriya Kumar, PhD, MPHAllowing all employees access to paid sick days would reduce influenza infections in the workplace, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health modeling experts.

The researchers simulated an influenza epidemic in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County and found that universal access to paid sick days would reduce flu cases in the workplace by nearly 6 percent and estimated it to be more effective for small, compared to large, workplaces. The results are reported in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health and will be in the August print issue.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with flu stay home for 24 hours after their fever breaks,” said lead author Supriya Kumar, Ph.D., M.P.H., a post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “However, not everyone is able to follow these guidelines. Many more workers in small workplaces than in large ones lack access to paid sick days and hence find it difficult to stay home when ill. Our simulations show that allowing all workers access to paid sick days would reduce illness because fewer workers get the flu over the course of the season if employees are able to stay home and keep the virus from being transmitted to their co-workers.” Read more

MIDAS Behavioral Modeling Group teaches summer undergraduates to give model agents a “brain” and a social context

Looking at heatmap on computerContinuing its commitment to advancing agent-based modeling of personal health behaviors, the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences is running a special mini-course twice a week from May - July 2013. The class will help MIDAS Summer Research Program participants (and interested others) to develop Netlogo programs and design behavioral experiments relevant to modeling efforts. Topics include various models, behavior in games and networks, and giving agents health psychologies. The mini-course is co-taught by Steven M. Albert, PhD, Professor and Chair, and Christopher R. Keane, ScD, MPH, Assistant Professor. Both are in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

Avian Influenza Serology Tests Must Be Interpreted with Caution

Here, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scientist harvests H7N9 virus that has been grown for sharing with partner laboratories for research purposes.
Photo courtesy of CDC/ Douglas E. Jordan

In an article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, MIDAS Center of Excellence PI, Dr. Donald Burke, and colleagues at the UPMC Center for Biosecurity, urge caution  in using seroepidemiologic studies to ientify undiagnosed cases of influenza. Based on a  comprehensive literature review of all English-language H5N1 human serology surveys, the authors assert that that serology studies must adhere to WHO criteria and include unexposed controls in their laboratory assays to limit the likelihood of false-positive results. This work has implication for other strains of influenza, including the current H7N9.  The article can be found in Clin Infect Dis. 2013 May;56(9):1206-12. doi: 10.1093/cid/cit047.

MIDAS’ PI ties systems thinking in public health to everything else

Donald S. BurkeDr. Donald S. Burke, PI for the University of Pittsburgh MIDAS Center of Excellence, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health and UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair in Global Health at the University of Pittsburgh, gave his Provost's Inaugural Lecture on March 28. The hour-long lecture, "System Thinking in Public Health and Everything Else," chronicles his personal journey to systems thinking and modeling. He also notes advances in systems thinking in the sciences, as well as the unique contributions of computational modeling to ameliorating infectious disease outbreaks. These developments led Dr. Burke to establish a transdisciplinary team that develops computational models and simulations of epidemic infectious diseases and uses these simulations to evaluate prevention and control strategies. The archive includes an 8-minute introduction and award by Patricia E. Beeson, PhD, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh.

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