Learning about disease modelling in Merida, Mexico

The Mathematical and Epidemiological Modeling of Infectious Diseases: a hands-on workshop was held in Merida, Mexico, on November 1-2, 2015. This workshop was part of the International Symposium on Veterinary Epidemiology & Economics (ISVEE). The ISVEE is the most important scientific meeting in the field and it is organized every three years.

The Mathematical and Epidemiological Modeling of Infectious Diseases workshop was directed to researchers and graduate students with the interest of combining the analysis of field observation with mathematical modeling. The workshop was ledby Dr. Yrjö Gröhn, Professor of Epidemiology at the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Cornell University and Dr. Cristina Lanzas, Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease at the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, North Carolina State University. The objective of the workshop was to obtain a better understanding of the transmission dynamics of endemic infectious diseases by integrating classic predictive models with observational data.

During the first day, the workshop addressed the advantages of using a modeling approach to evaluate risks for human and animal health in complex socio-economic systems. Particularly, we focused on the main tools and principal advantages of computer simulation modelling and in the multiple options for disease dynamics prediction when multifactorial approaches are required. The main concepts addressed during the first day were, among others,  SIR models (i.e. Susceptible, infectious, Recovered models), Reproduction Ratio, and Herd Immunity. We integrated all these concepts by setting up and interpreting simple models using the software ModelMaker and modeling dynamics of Salmonella infection in a dairy herd. During the second day of the workshop we focused on stochastic modeling and modeling interventions. Many events in life seems to occur by chance and disease outbreaks are not the exception. We particularly focused on demographic and environmental stochasticity and the impact of vaccines on the dynamics of infectious diseases. We used practical case studies focused on the risk and control of Salmonella outbreaks in calf-raising operations. The hands-on approach applied during the whole workshop was a plus that allowed participants not only to have a better understanding on the extent of mathematical modeling but also to gain enough confidence to keep exploring this interesting field by their own means.

The city of Merida was definitely an excellent destinationand made of the workshop a full package. Merida is an authentic colonial city located in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula. It is one of the oldest continental cities in the Americas and as such has a rich cultural heritage. The Merida downtown is called “centro” and is a great combination of colonial buildings and modern architecture. Merida was built on the site of the Maya city name T’ho which was the center of Mayan activity and culture for centuries. Even today it is possible to appreciate many buildings from Spanish colonization using carved Mayan stones from the ancient T’ho in their construction. I had a great time walking the streets of Merida, it is one of the safest cities in Mexico and has all the colors and flavor that characterize this amazing country.

The mathematical modeling workshop was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute. I would like to thank HPI for the travel funding which allowed me to attend this hands-on workshop.

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