In a new article out in The Wire, ESSIC/AOSC Professor Raghu Murtugudde argues for a dedicated Infectious Disease Forecasting (IDF) center to bring centralized public health decision-making to India.
Like many other places, India is in the midst of a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. India has fortunately had a slower-than-expected infection rate, causing rumors to circulate, both anecdotes about a natural immunity to the virus as well as cautionary stories that the number of infections has just not yet exploded.
Murtugudde writes, “The big question is whether it is better to attribute the ‘low’ number of new infections and deaths to early social distancing and lockdown efforts or some hitherto unverified natural immunity. The decision about relaxing or continuing the lockdowns is not an easy one.”
A greater national emphasis on outbreak science through the instatement of an IDF center could help with this tricky decision process. IDF models can predict scenarios related to infection rates and disease evolution as well as environmental parameters and socioeconomic vulnerability. The model divides the population into three segments, Susceptible, Infected and Removed, and moves people among these categories using mathematical equations with various biological and physical parameters.
Though perfect accuracy is difficult to obtain, these models are a useful tool. They have already been effective for estimating the requirements for equipment, masks, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ another outbreak will occur that will bring humanity to its knees, but only a matter of ‘when’. With climate change and increased global connectivity and food demand, a dedicated IDF Centre is a national imperative for India,” writes Murtugudde.
In addition to his work at ESSIC, Murtugudde is an Affiliate Professor for the Department of Geology currently serving as a Visiting Professor in Bombay, India. He works primarily in climate studies, exploring the co-evolution of life and climate and what it means for sustainability. He also writes a blog hosted on the ESSIC website.
To read his full article, click here: “Why India Needs to Establish an Infectious Disease Forecast Centre Right Away”.