Flu 101
  MIT Engineering Systems for Public Health: Decision-Making Tools for Healthy Living: Empowering the Individual to Reduce the Probability of Getting the Flu  




Welcome to Flu 101
The enormous risks of pandemic flu were, five years ago, known to only a few - often dedicated historians and medical specialists. Today, after SARS and with the novel H1N1 "swine flu" sweeping the world and the much more lethal avian flu virus H5N1 threatening the world, awareness of pandemic flu has increased exponentially. Intense efforts aimed at averting an international calamity are now found in many countries worldwide.

We at MIT’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals are not focused on medical research. While we’re all hopeful of breakthroughs that could produce a vaccine quickly and inexpensively, current best practice suggests that approval of an effective vaccine will take at least six months after the offending virus (perhaps H5N1, but perhaps a different variant) mutates to become human-to-human efficiently transmittable. Within six months, the entire world could be engulfed with pandemic flu. Even after six months, finite production capacities coupled with cost considerations would limit vaccine production so that only a miniscule fraction of the planet's 6 billion inhabitants would have access to it. So, in essence, we are naked against a new virulent flu virus, naked for at least six months and perhaps much longer. The new H1N1 vaccine was created in perhaps record time, but still near the six-month mark.

What are our alternatives, collectively and individually? We believe there are actions, controls and behavioral modifications that can be put in place that can reduce the prevalence of influenza infection: decision alternatives – from individuals, to families, to work places and employers, to governments at all levels – to control and reduce the prevalence of a virulent flu, once it is introduced into the population.

Our current focus is non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – including social distancing (frequency of human contacts) and hygienic behavioral changes (frequent hand-washing, coughing into one’s sleeve) – that can reduce the transmission rate and severity of infectious diseases such as pandemic influenza in the community.

Explore the site, and may it empower you to make healthy decisions to avoid the flu!


  See an interactive map showing worldwide cases of H1N1 influenza. From HealthMap.  
MIT Medical:
Influenza Information
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  Watch "Flu Math Games" a learning video brought to you by BLOSSOMS and MIT TechTV featuring Flu 101's Dr. Richard C. Larson
flu math games

Updated Guidance for Schools for the Fall Flu Season by FLU.gov.

> Find the guidance and associated toolkit on the school planning page.

> Watch the video archive of the school guidance news conference.

Avoid the Flu