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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Professor Fight’s Disease with Math

March 1st, 2012

Jan MedlockJan Medlock is a mathematician with a twist: he puts the math to use in the fight against infectious disease. In January, Dr. Medlock joined the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences as an assisstant professor.

Dr. Medlock studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech and from there, went to graduate school in Applied Math at the University of Washington, doing his PhD research on theoretical models of infectious-disease spread in space.  Next, he spent four years as a post-doctoral researcher in Epidemiology & Public Health at Yale, where he focused on practical applications of mathematics to address major infectious diseases.

Most recently, Medlock was an assistant professor at Clemson where he published a study on the best way to vaccinate the U.S. population against influenza. That study examined mortality and survey data on infectious contacts from the 1918 and 1957 flu pandemics with a focus on how age impacted the spread of the disease. His research concluded that schoolchildren and their parents are the best groups to vaccinate when limited amounts of vaccine are available. “Current flu vaccination recommendations include children under age 5 and for seasonal flu, people over 50,” says Medlock. “The vaccines would be better used to prevent transmission within schools and out to parents, who then spread the flu to the rest of the population.”

The findings may impact how public health organizations minimize the spread of influenza in the future by prioritizing distribution of limited vaccine.

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