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Online Survey of Public to help study of how disease and pandemics spread

Professr Matthew KeelingResearchers at the University of Warwick and Liverpool University have today launched a simple online survey that will help scientists understand the speed with which killer diseases such as the ongoing swine flu outbreak could spread through the British population.

The study will provide crucial information that will that will help policy makers  and UK health authorities understand the speed with which these diseases could spread. Britain leads the world in research into infectious diseases and two of the world's leading authorities are carrying out the survey, which involves a questionnaire on the Internet at www.contactsurvey.org and 100,000 printed versions being posted next week to schools and the public.

The project is being funded by the Medical Research Council and spearheaded by Professor Matthew Keeling, a government advisor and mathematical biologist at the University of Warwick who is a specialist in human and livestock diseases, and Dr Jonathan Read from the University of Liverpool, who is researching the transmission and evolution of infectious diseases.

Professor Matthew Keeling, from the University of Warwick said:

"We need to know the patterns of social interactions to enable us to better predict and control the spread of infections - such as pandemic flu," said Professor Keeling. "Surprisingly there's a lot known about people's sexual contacts - but there's little or no data about routine social or physical contact with others. No other country is carrying out this research in this much detail.

"There are understandable growing concerns about the current situation and a possible pandemic; we need to find out as much as possible about social contacts,"

Dr Read, who has just returned from a project studying the spread of flu in China, said:

“The UK lads the world in this field of research. We will be sharing our findings with scientific communities around the globe. The questionnaire is easy to complete and asks participants to list all the people they met on a particular day, detailing for how long, whether at home, in the workplace or socially, how often they met and, most importantly, how many of those people they actually touched.”

"From the results we will have a much better idea of how quickly an epidemic could spread, and the measures that would be needed to control it,"

For further details, or to complete the survey online, log on to www.contactsurvey.org Ends For further information contact:

Notes for editors:

Professor Matt Keeling is a professor of maths and biology at the University of Warwick. He currently gives advice to the UK government on planning for and controlling infectious diseases in both humans and livestock. His research focuses on predicting how diseases spread through networks of contacts and how this network structure allows us to optimalise control.

Dr Jonathan Read is a lecturer in infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Liverpool. He makes mathematical models of disease spreading between people or animals. He is also involved with a study of how influenza spreads between households in southern China, and developing better ways to predict how people will behave in a pandemic.

For further information please contact:

Professor Matt Keeling: 02476 524618 (m.j.keeling@warwick.ac.uk)

Dr Jonathan Read: 0151 794 6195 (jonread@liv.ac.uk)

 Or

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager Communications Office,
University House, ,University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom     
UK Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708 Mobile +44 (0)7767 655860
email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

 PR35  29th April 2009