How Swine Flu Spread Globally

Frequently I find something in the literature that is absolutely fascinating. It often has to do with health related research and the way it is visualized and communicated. Today, I want to share with you just such results!

In recent months we have been deluged with news about the H1N1 influenza pandemic. You may have wondered, did it really start in Mexico, and how did it spread globally so quickly? Flu viruses continually mutate as they multiply. By analyzing these mutations, scientists can develop a family tree and model how and when the disease spreads!

A biomathematician from UCLA, Marc Suchard; a molecular epidemiologist from Riga Institute, Phillippe Lemey; along with a virologist Andrew Rambaut from the University of Edinburgh have collaborated together to model the spread of H1N1 between late March and mid-July 2009. Using Google Earth they visualized the global spread of the pandemic over time:

It is fascinating how viral genetics can illuminate the obscure origins of an epidemic even before the infectious agent was identified, and then track its global trajectories once it has grown larger than the individual cases can be examined.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Stay well, and practice good hygiene!