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Rules of contagion - meet a mathematician at the frontline of the COVID-19 fight



I remember seeing some of those early signals which were just really just the signs that we don't like to see in the early stages of an outbreak that we had this evidence transmission. We had evidence the the some infections maybe weren't being detected. We had transmission before people had severe symptoms which which meant the company down. And like we did. I was going to be really difficult and I remember. Seeing somebody data on how much transmission was with my owed or Muslims who was Simpson's appeared and I just remember just being compete. Used on thinking. This is going to be so so difficult to control. Associate Professor Adam Kucharski and colleagues working in real time right now to track the virus outbreak to understand how it spreads and what we can do to halt it or minimize. It's impact and you might be surprised to hear that he's not a biologist. He's a mathematician and an epidemiologist with the Santa Fe mathematical modeling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine and he's worked on some big ones. The avian flu outbreak in China Ebola in West Zeqir in French Polynesia Dinghy in the Pacific and in a bizarre bit of publishing timing. He's new book. Just at is called the rules of contagion. Why things sprayed and why they stop at joins you and I from London via skype. It's been a very busy two months for US. Really kind of the early stages trying to get a sense of how. This thing was transmitting just trying to get. Some basic information really started from scratch in tons of understanding. We'll teach drool another place but then realizing that You know there are oversee with any outbreak elements that they're going to be unpredictable. As Trans Continued. We moved mobile to trying to just get some sensible situations in different countries. All this analogy differences and looking at different scenarios of going forward if we have these measures going in war factor they having this money work on quantify the impact in China. Does that? Leave us now? Where intentionally the most effective strategies we take to ensure that this thing doesn't continue to spread. You have studied infectious diseases for many years. In fact you actually started out in the finance arraigner gather and then skipped over using your mathematical talents to to going to epidemiology. Could you have imagined in your lifetime that you would see an event like this happen? That would have such a widespread impact. Was it just a matter of time? I think we always had a pandemic talk all our concern in UK. And then if you stop the register government stuff a really long time and a novel Groin of Iris. Given what we know about Soz modes is always been a concern. But I think to be in this situation Coppee e Would've US I mean as you mentioned that over time and finance and that was during the two thousand eight financial classes overseas. That questions had huge ramifications. But I think we're in a similar situation here where we obviously work a lot on infectious disease dynamics in the control measures we try and give ce`namas useful to understand what's going on in and make decisions but I think the the social implications of us very easy inamoto to say we're GonNa look at what happens if everyone is Three or four months but that has enormous social psychological economic indications. I think that's really important to see the real life impact on family and and people who might feel more isolated. I think gate really does highlight. How difficult these decisions are we are asking so much of people potentially for such a long period of time to bring on the control these incredible. What range of frontlines? You're working on right now. Where the data's coming from you're doing analysis of the people that were infected on the the cruise ship the diamond princess that was docked off the coast of Japan. You've taken data right from the very beginning of breaking Wuhan to look at fatality transmission from Wuhan Incredible Range of France that. You're working on a yeah. We're really trying to make the best use of of the day to is. We can help in the movie hunt analysis in February those a slowdown in cases in China. And the time. There's a lot of speculation in the media. Is that genuine slowdown hit casting capacity to meals. You have spike when they change the reporting criteria. I'm about weakened to February what we were doing looking at a number of other days so says well. For example how many cases had paid in other countries to travel hit history to an evacuation flights? In in early February we looked the prevalence of infection the flights and tried to estimate what that tells us about the outbreaks. I think really in this situation. You never have the perfect to you have a loss of quite scrappy. Noisy delayed in perfect data. And you have to try and bring them together in a way that allows you to get back to idea online picture in pulling all the numbers together from all the different sites all the different transmission pathways of this pandemic of this virus in real time data. Die As you are. Is there an interesting or picture? Emerging for you in relation to this pandemic this particular virus because of course you have tracked Ebola in west Africa Dangi in different parts of the world size. So you have a real sort of sense. Fine tune sense of the nature of epidemics end subsequently pandemics things that really stands out with this Early growth pattern of this outbreak. When there's not stringent control in place is really similize scenes between countries across over a dozen countries. I'm over the last month. We've seen very very similar rates of growth suggests that the the infections potential to spread nip population. That doesn't have good control in place is really kind of universal. And it's not the case you've got some countries that just aren't GonNa be we know. These lockdown measures worked in China. But at the moment we don't have a clear evidence base to anything like that can really be sufficient in many countries to tell these outbreaks. So we'll transition takes off quite crude tooling tons of down seems to be the only one which is really reducing transmission. Yeah that's extraordinary. What distinguishes say Taiwan and South Korea? Then from a country like Singapore because I of course we're able to get on top of transmission really early and I stand out now in the world yet and it's been a few differences between will this country so for example career. It was really extensive. Testing booster the early outright was was quite geographically concentrated they had that massive action events in places like Singapore Taiwan that had is kind of tracing at risk as you get moving more imported cases it does become more difficult because data movable was GonNa Push. I mean we do. I'm Hong Kong with slightly different. 'cause they had Distancing Measures Leon but again I've seen last few week We have last week the They all increasing numbers in has been suggestions from from some people on huckle knew that may be some element of fatigue because these measures happened in place for a couple of months ago. Schools preemptively at a religious illustrates the difficulty the evening countries. That done an incredible job. Reducing transmission are still eventually ended up in this situation where they're having to take most measures. Yes in Hong Kong is exhausted. It's been dealing with MSA. Months of Ineffective Social Revolution they social aspects of contagion. Really fascinate you. And this is such a weird time had to be releasing you your new book. The rules of contagion why things spread and why they stop. It's almost as if you publishes had big plans for you. It's it's been very surreal and even just revisiting the book Talk about the next pandemic and and reflexive it's valuable nets as is strange to see some of those themes Nine about a while Play out but not just in terms of defection itself also the contest about kind of misinformation line in the structure of how that works and what we've seen his follow that pretty closely in terms of of some of the dynamics outlined the book

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