Aid in Early Detection of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Photo: Paramedics

During public health emergencies
software helps; Picture Disk

The program, called TranStat, was developed by a team of epidemiologists and computer scientists from the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), an international program supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build computational models for studying disease spread.

“A main goal of MIDAS is to make the models developed by the researchers available to the public health community and policymakers,” said Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the NIH component that funds MIDAS. “TranStat is a great example of how MIDAS is providing tools to help communities prepare for emerging infectious disease outbreaks.”

Available for free and downloadable at , TranStat can be used by public health officials to systematically enter and store infectious disease data. These data include details about the infected individuals, such as their sex, age, and onset of symptoms; their close contacts; and any interventions they might have received. The program also prompts the field personnel to enter details about exposed but uninfected individuals. The system does not collect names or other personally identifying information.

The computer program uses this information to statistically determine the probability that people contracted the disease from each other, a driving factor in the spread of infections. TranStat also estimates in real time the average number of people an individual could infect and the rate at which that infection occurs in a particular setting. This information can help health officials develop and swiftly implement strategies that thwart further spread while they conduct additional studies.

"We've made TranStat portable and easy to use, so field officers can enter, edit, and analyze data as an outbreak progresses," said Diane Wagener, Ph.D., a program manager at RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research organization in Research Triangle Park, N.C., which helped develop the user interface.; Source: NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences