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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Florida: Partners with University of Pittsburgh to Create Measles Simulator for Florida

April 22-28 is World Immunization Week
Take one student with measles and plunk him or her down in an area where measles vaccination rates have dropped 10 percent overall.

What would happen?

It’s a question Dr. Karen Liller, a University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH) professor of community and family health, posed to Dr. Mark Roberts, a professor and chair at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and director of the university’s Public Health Dynamics Laboratory.

Dr. Roberts and his team developed a simulator called FRED (Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics). FRED takes vaccination rates — both real and hypothetical — and shows possible outbreaks following the introduction of a single measles case in a selected U.S. city.

For the Florida experiment, Dr. Roberts input data collected by Dr. Liller from the Florida Department of Health school immunization records. The simulator showed what would happen over a nine-month period if one student with measles went about life in an area where current vaccination rates held steady — and then in an area where the rates dropped by 10 percent.

When the vaccination rate dipped, the increase in cases—which the simulator showed spreading wildly in the first few months before dropping off — was dramatic.

Not to mention alarming.

“You don’t have to have immunization rates drop that much to have a serious public health issue,” said Dr. Liller, who is also director of the Activist Lab, a COPH initiative that provides students with opportunities to advocate for public health issues and become active in local, state and national government. “The cases just balloon.”

See the FRED simulator in action.

Story by Ms. Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health