To Predict Flu, Follow the Money

Looking at how bills travel lets researchers predict shape of epidemic
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2009 9:07 AM CDT
The number of times a bill changes hands over its lifetime can be astounding. Maps of the paths of money can be used as proxies for human interactions, and therefore flu spread.   (Flickr)
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(Newser) – Scientific research requires funding, but in the case of the Northwestern University team modeling the spread of swine flu in the near future, actual dollar bills are an important element of their analysis. The team has used information from a website that tracks the movement of money to predict how quickly the disease will spread, the New York Times reports.

The model has stood up fairly well so far, bringing some credibility to the predictions of only about 2,000 US infections by the end of May. As with the exchange of money and major travel, most new cases are expected to occur in a few hubs: New York, Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles. The simulations also use commuter data, all crunched through a supercomputer.