Individual-based Computational Modeling of Smallpox Epidemic Control Strategies

Donald S. Burke, Joshua M. Epstein, Derek A.T. Cummings, Jon I. Parker, Kenneth C. Cline, Ramesh M. Singa, Shubha Chakravarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In response to concerns about possible bioterrorism, the authors developed an individual-based (or "agent-based") computational model of smallpox epidemic transmission and control. The model explicitly represents an "artificial society" of individual human beings, each implemented as a distinct object, or data structure in a computer program. These agents interact locally with one another in code-represented social units such as homes, workplaces, schools, and hospitals. Over many iterations, these microinteractions generate large-scale macroscopic phenomena of fundamental interest such as the course of an epidemic in space and time. Model variables (incubation periods, clinical disease expression, contagiousness, and physical mobility) were assigned following realistic values agreed on by an advisory group of experts on smallpox. Eight response scenarios were evaluated at two epidemic scales, one being an introduction of ten smallpox cases into a 6,000-person town and the other an introduction of 500 smallpox cases into a 50,000-person town. The modeling exercise showed that contact tracing and vaccination of household, workplace, and school contacts, along with prompt reactive vaccination of hospital workers and isolation of diagnosed cases, could contain smallpox at both epidemic scales examined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1149
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • bioterrorism
  • computer simulation
  • contact tracing
  • mass vaccination
  • models
  • smallpox
  • theoretical
  • vaccinia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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