Posts Tagged 'Epidemiology'

Pooling Expertise to Tackle Covid-19

Our lives have been severely restricted in recent months. We are assured that the constraints have been imposed following “the best scientific advice”, but what is the nature of this advice? Among the most important scientific tools used for guidance on the Covid-19 outbreak are mathematical models  [TM188; or search for “thatsmaths” at ].


Prof Philip Nolan, Chairman of IEMAG (Photograph: Tom Honan

Continue reading ‘Pooling Expertise to Tackle Covid-19’

Covid-19: Modelling the evolution of a viral outbreak


The illness is called Covid-19 but the virus is known as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2) [Image from US agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].

There is widespread anxiety about the threat of the Covid-19 virus. Mathematics now plays a vital role in combating the spread of epidemics, and will help us to bring this outbreak under control. For centuries, mathematics has been used to solve problems in astronomy, physics and engineering. But now biology and medicine have become topics of mathematical investigation, and applications in these areas are certain to expand in the future [TM183 or search for “thatsmaths” at].

How rapidly will the viral infection spread? How long will it remain a problem? When will it reach a peak and how quickly will it die out? Most important, what effective steps can we can take to control the outbreak and to minimize the damage caused? When vaccines become available, what is the optimal strategy for their use? Models provide valuable evidence for decision makers.

Continue reading ‘Covid-19: Modelling the evolution of a viral outbreak’

Reducing R-naught to stem the spread of Epidemics

Vaccine-1We are reminded each year to get vaccinated against the influenza virus. The severity of the annual outbreak is not known with certainty in advance, but a major pandemic is bound to occur sooner or later. Mathematical models play an indispensable role in understanding and managing infectious diseases. Models vary in sophistication from the simple SIR model with just three variables to highly complex simulation models with millions of variables [TM134 or search for “thatsmaths” at]. Continue reading ‘Reducing R-naught to stem the spread of Epidemics’


This week, That’s Maths (TM006) describes the use of mathematical models to study the spread of infections like the SARS epidemic and swine flu.

Simple models such as the SIR model of Kermack and McKendrick (1927) can simulate the broad features of epidemics, but much more sophisticated models have been developed using the same approach.

For an elementary introduction to the mthematics of modelling infectious diseases, see Epidemic Modelling, by D. J. Daley and J. Gani, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.


The End of Smallpox

Daniel Bernoulli was born in 1700 into a remarkably talented family. He excelled in mathematics, but also studied and lectured in medicine, botany and physics. In 1760, he submitted a paper to the Academy of Sciences in Paris dealing with the effects of inoculation on morbidity. Continue reading ‘The End of Smallpox’

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