Preparing for pandemics with simulations

Simulating a pandemic—in schools, housing complexes, or workplaces—could help people be better prepared if a real pandemic strikes.

So says Pardis Sabeti, an expert in the genomics of infectious diseases, who co-authored a March 13, 2019 article in Wired about a simulated viral outbreak at a Florida middle school.

In the Wired article, Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a professor at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology, Andres Colubri, computational researcher in the Sabeti Lab, and teacher Todd Brown described how they partnered to create a pandemic simulation project that was conducted last March at Sarasota Military Academy Prep. Brown created an experiential learning module called Operation Outbreak (O2) in which students were assigned various roles—clinicians, epidemiologists, government officials, military, media, or the general population—and had to respond in real time to an “outbreak” that “spread” via Bluetooth from one student’s phone to the next.

Simulations can help make clear “that preparation and cooperation are essential elements for a successful response to outbreaks,” the authors wrote. They added, “Rapid response to a real-life pandemic is essential, and the role of community awareness and preparedness is critical—why wait for a real-life pandemic to learn how to respond?”

Read the Wired article: When It Comes to Disease, Why Wait for a Pandemic to Respond?