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Systems Engineering and Flu Pandemic Preparedness -- an Unexpected Match

When the subject of a flu pandemic is raised, it's natural to assume that the experts in the field would be medical researchers.

But the implementation of the technology required to prevent a flu pandemic has some of the same mathematical qualities of many problems that have vexed engineers for years.

In that spirit, two researchers in Old Dominion University's Engineering Management and Systems Engineering department of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology have contributed an article to the latest issue of Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

For the piece, titled "Rapid Sensor Technology: A Risk and System Complexity Analyses of Early Detection of Influenza-Like-Illnesses," researchers Ariel Pinto, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering, and adjunct instructor Ipek Bozkurt, teamed up with researchers from Norfolk's Eastern Virginia Medical School.

They wanted to find out what opportunities and challenges accompanied the implementation of a rapid sensor technology to detect influenza at its earliest stages.

"Addressing the risks of a flu pandemic scenario is very complex, involving not only the latest technologies but also people at local and federal agencies and health institutions, as well as everything that comes with these organizations," Pinto said.

Using system of systems engineering, a specialty of the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, the researchers suggested approaching the problem from various perspectives.

Employing multidisciplinary risk management allows researchers to more efficiently allocate resources to mitigate a flu pandemic. The researchers said that proved to be a valid strategy for divining the best possible solution to a pandemic situation.

"Engineering management and systems engineering enabled us to put all of these at the table for risk analysts to look at in meaningful ways," Pinto said.

In addition to defining the problem and laying out a strategy to combat a pandemic, the paper goes on to discuss possible tools and techniques that can make the solution to the problem a reality.

Pinto said the more ODU engineers and EVMS researchers get to know each other, "the more we realize that our expertise complements each other. Together, we believe we can have greater success answering difficult questions surrounding the risks of flu pandemic than we will be able to have separately."

The Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is the primary source of new, peer-reviewed research and information in the fields of homeland security and emergency management. JHSEM features original, innovative, and timely articles and other information on research and practice from a broad array of professions including: emergency management, engineering, political science, public policy, decision science, and health and medicine.

This article was posted on: January 6, 2010

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