Computers track cholera in Zimbabwe

June 2, 2011 at 8:34 PM

GAINESVILLE, Fla., June 2 (UPI) -- Researchers say mathematical models of a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe are providing insights into effective vaccination strategies against future outbreaks.

A University of Florida-led research team said the models used to analyze a large outbreak in 2008-2009 suggest strategic deployment of mass vaccinations could prevent future epidemics of the disease.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can be a tool for aid agencies in Zimbabwe, and in other nations prone to cholera, to deliver treatments more cost-effectively, a university release said Thursday.

"We wanted to know where the hot spots of the outbreaks were occurring, and we needed to factor how many people one sick person could potentially infect," Zindoga Mukandavire, a postdoctoral associate from Zimbabwe at Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute, said.

Researchers looked closely at cultural and other practices that brought people together that might contribute to the spread of the epidemic.

"Cholera transmission through these types of direct contacts among people accounted for much of the observed illness," J. Glenn Morris Jr., director of the pathogens institute, said. "There were also striking differences in transmission patterns from province to province, reflecting differences in environment, socio-economic conditions, and cultural practices."

The differences observed among various Zimbabwe provinces suggest that approaches to disease control should be tailored to specific regional characteristics, the researchers said.

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