If you missed getting your flu shot, it's not the end of the world. In fact, random treatment times may actually help manage a disease outbreak in the long run. New research suggests that when treatments are given twice a year, six months apart, a disease has time to regain strength. But when random doses fall closer together, the disease can be hit in a weak state, Scientific American reports. Not only that, changing things up also increases the likelihood of a random extinction event—a very rare case when an outbreak dies out suddenly due to unpredictable factors.
Researchers came to the conclusion using a computer simulation to deliver treatment of infectious diseases among 8,000 people two different ways: in regular intervals, and randomly. When treatment was given two to eight times a year, a disease died out far quicker using the random program. And it's news that may have huge implications for how treatments are given in developing countries where resources are low, Scientific American suggests. Rather than treat a few people regularly, irregular doses to a larger group may work best. (Read more infectious diseases stories.)