Epidemiologists are disease detectives. The investigative insights of a forensic epidemiologist are exemplified by Sherlock Holmes, whose creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, qualified as a medical doctor in Edinburgh. With limited information, some of which may be dubious and misleading, epidemiologists search for hidden clues as to the cause of a disease and its manner of population spread and use statistical modeling techniques to estimate the degree of disease contagion and the number of cases of infection.
Prof. Neil Ferguson heads the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Modeling at Imperial College London. His search for scientific understanding using sparse observational data dates back to his theoretical physics PhD at Oxford. Like others trained in theoretical physics, Prof. Ferguson is not shy in making mathematical forecasts that may be at odds with partial data of suspect reliability. Misreporting blighted the Chinese response to the 2002 SARS outbreak.Continue reading