HOW (AND HOW NOT) TO FIGHT A FLU EPIDEMIC:
Scientists are still studying the 1918 pandemic, the deadliest of the 20th century, looking for lessons for future outbreaks â€” including the possibility that H5N1, the avian influenza virus, could mutate into a form spread easily from human to human. This month, researchers published two new studies in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences comparing public-health responses in cities like St. Louis and Philadelphia.
Using mathematical models, they reported that such large differences in death rates could be explained by the ways the cities carried out prevention measures, especially in their timing. Cities that instituted quarantine, school closings, bans on public gatherings and other such procedures early in the epidemic had peak death rates 30 percent to 50 percent lower than those that did not. . . . A two-week difference in response times, according to the researchers, is long enough for the number of people infected in an influenza epidemic to double three to five times.
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