Modeling inhalational tularemia: Deliberate release and public health response

Joseph R. Egan*, Ian Hall, Stephen Leach

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Two epidemic modeling studies of inhalational tularemia were identified in the published literature, both demonstrating the high number of potential casualties that could result from a deliberate aerosolized release of the causative agent in an urban setting. However, neither study analyzed the natural history of inhalational tularemia nor modeled the relative merits of different mitigation strategies. We first analyzed publicly available human/primate experimental data and reports of naturally acquired inhalational tularemia cases to better understand the epidemiology of the disease. We then simulated an aerosolized release of the causative agent, using airborne dispersion modeling to demonstrate the potential number of casualties and the extent of their spatial distribution. Finally, we developed a public health intervention model that compares 2 mitigation strategies: targeting antibiotics at symptomatic individuals with or without mass distribution of antibiotics to potentially infected individuals. An antibiotic stockpile that is sufficient to capture all areas where symptomatic individuals were infected is likely to save more lives than treating symptomatic individuals alone, providing antibiotics can be distributed rapidly and their uptake is high. However, with smaller stockpiles, a strategy of treating symptomatic individuals alone is likely to save many more lives than additional mass distribution of antibiotics to potentially infected individuals. The spatial distribution of symptomatic individuals is unlikely to coincide exactly with the path of the dispersion cloud if such individuals are infected near their work locations but then seek treatment close to their homes. The optimal mitigation strategy will depend critically on the size of the release relative to the stockpile level and the effectiveness of treatment relative to the speed at which antibiotics can be distributed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)331-343
    Number of pages13
    JournalBiosecurity and Bioterrorism
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


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