Team Number: 019
School Name: Bosque School
Area of Science: Environmental Science
Project Title: Modeling the Spread of the West Nile Virus
The West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in September 1999. This initial outbreak in New York resulted in 62 serious human infections, which led to seven deaths. Two additional deaths and 19 human infections occurred last year in the US. Since November 2001, the Virus has been detected in mosquito populations in 17 states, bird populations in 20 states, and wildlife populations in 18 states, as well as in populations in Canada. Testing of the Virus among humans has occurred in all but 21 states, and will most likely expand as the Virus works its way westward.
The purpose of our project is to create a model that will predict and map the spread of the West Nile Virus, as well as forecast possible locations of future outbreaks. The output will be a graphical display of the regions that are infected. We have developed an understanding of the dynamics of the disease, such as its rates and modes of transmission. Now, we are creating a model that predicts the Virus' spread through air vectors. First, we are limiting our model to a small imaginary geographic region with a stable weather pattern, and our vectors to crows and mosquitoes. From there, the program will be expanded to include larger geographic areas, more migratory flyways, broader weather patterns, and additional vectors.
Progress to Date:
As it stands, we are in the process of developing our model. We have completed a mosquito model that simulates the growth and decline of mosquito populations in summer and winter. We chose to begin with mosquitoes because they are the chief carrier of the Virus. We are developing the models for viral cycles in birds, (susceptible > infected > dead), for humans, (susceptible > infected > recover > susceptible or susceptible > infected > dead), and mosquitoes, (susceptible > infected). In addition, we are developing a compartmental model for infected individuals (crows, mosquitoes, humans) in a region, as well as a large-scale model of regions in order to map spread and migration of the Virus and birds, respectively. Furthermore, we have begun to write our final report and prepare our presentation. We have a mentor – Dr. Rudy Bueno, section supervisor of the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department – with who we have been in consistent contact, and who has been very helpful in validating our information thus far.
The program will be able to follow and map the current spread of the West Nile Virus, as well as map the predicted spread. When the program is completed, it will be a helpful tool for scientists and local health officials to combat future outbreaks.
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