Mathematician provides model to eradicate polio

Posted on Monday, June 8, 2015

OTTAWA, June 5, 2015  —  In all of human history, only two diseases have been eradicated: smallpox and a cow disease called rinderpest. Through mathematical modelling, uOttawa professor Robert Smith? recently discovered that synchronizing vaccinations across regions may be the key to eradicating one of humanity’s greatest diseases once and for all: polio.

“We discovered that the best strategy to eradication is to coordinate national immunization days (NIDs) across different regions. It is within our power and provides obvious benefits,” says Smith?, of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. NIDs involve mass vaccinations in affected countries over one or two days. In a single NID in India, 174 million children are vaccinated. NIDs, otherwise known as “pulses,” happen twice a year.

With mathematical modelling, it is possible to predict the success of NIDs . Smith? adds that “modelling also helped us see the most important factors that affect polio eradication: migration and seasonality. Seasonality becomes more important if migration is low, and the opposite applies if migration is high.”

Poliomyelitis, commonly referred to as polio, causes severe disability and paralysis, especially among children. When eradication efforts began in 1988, there were 350,000 cases. In 2013, there were fewer than 500 cases.

The full study is published in the July 2015 edition of the Journal of Mathematical Biology.

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