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Problem Title: The Next Plague?

  Year: 2014      
  Student Level: High School      
  Source: HiMCM      
  Commentary: Yes (1)      
  Student Papers: Yes (4)      

In 2014, the world saw the infectious Ebola virus spreading in western Africa. Throughout human history, epidemics have come and gone with some infecting and/or killing thousands and lasting for years and others taking less of a human toll. Some believe these events are just nature’s way of controlling the growth of a species while others think they could be a conspiracy or deliberate act to cause harm. This problem will most likely come down to how to expend (or not expend) scarce resources (doctors, containment facilities, money, research, serums, etc...) to deal with a crisis.

Situation: A routine humanitarian mission on an island in Indonesia reported a small village where almost half of its 300 inhabitants are showing similar symptoms. In the past week, 15 of the "infected" have died. This village is known to trade with nearby villages and other islands. Your modeling team works for a major center of disease control in the capital of your country (or if you prefer, for the International World Health Organization).

Requirement 1: Develop a mathematical model(s) that performs the following functions as well as how/when to best allocate these scarce resources and...
Determines and classifies the type and severity of the spread of the disease
Determines if an epidemic is contained or not
Triggers appropriate measures (when to treat, when to transport victims, when to restrict movement, when to let a disease run its course, etc...) to contain a disease Note: While you may want to start with the well-known "SIR" family of models for parts of this problem, consider others, modifications to the SIR, multiple models, or creating your own.

Requirement 2: Based on the information given, your model, and the assumptions your team has made, what initial recommendations does your team have for your country’s center for disease control? (Give 3-5 recommendations with justifications)
Additional Situational Information: A multi-national research team just returned to your country’s capital after spending 7 days gathering information in the infected village.

Requirement 3:
You can ask them up to 3 questions to improve your model. What would you ask and why?
Additional Situational Information: The multi-national research team concluded that the disease:
Appears to spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person
The elderly and children are more likely to die if infected
A nearby island is starting to show similar signs of infection
One of the researchers that returned to your capital appears infected

Requirement 4:
How does the additional information above change/modify your model?

Requirement 5:
Write a one-page synopsis of your findings for your local non-technical news outlet.


Consortium Article

  Student Papers      

Team 4637: Epi-Dealing With Epidemics

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, IL


Team 4880: The Next Plague?

Hong Kong International School, Tai Tam, Hong Kong SAR


Team 5295: The Next Plague?

Chesterfield County Math/Science High School @ Clover Hill, Midlothian, VA


Team 5325: The Coming Plague

Round Rock High School, Round Rock, TX