statistics and applied probability

national university of singapore

Ring prophylaxis in the army

My paper with Major Dr Vernon Lee and co was published last night in the New England Journal of Medicine.  We showed that a suite of control measures, including proactively dispensing antivirals, stopped some outbreaks of H1N1 in army camps early on.  It’s a bit of a score for the army, me, and Singapore, as NEJM is the top medical journal and has an impact factor of 50; for comparison, AnnStat has an IF of 2.3, JASA of 2.4 and JRSSB of 2.8, while Science and Nature get 28 and 31, resp.

We encountered some difficulties in the analysis: for one, there was no control to the control (!), i.e. no outbreaks in which the disease was left to run its course, as the units were needed for stuff like the National Day Parade.  So I put together a kind-of Poisson infection model and whopped it with some MCMC.  That did the trick.  The other problem was that the army were just too damn efficient!  They started control for most outbreaks so soon it was hard to show the control was effective (think small n).  Perhaps the lesson is to let things get really bad before you try to show that your treatment is effective…  Anyway, this has given me an idea for an honour’s project…

PS The paper’s being publicised in the Straits Times and Today on Friday 11 June and on the Channel NewsAsia website.

1 Comment

  1. chenlei leng

    2010/06/17 at 10:22

    Good job, Alex! While I agree that medical journals have much higher “impact” given their nature, it is also true that such publications are usually judged by the scientific contribution, and to a lesser degree the contribution from the statistical side. Of course, methodological papers almost never appear in journals like NEJM.

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