Mathematical models of viral transmission and control are important tools for assessing the threat posed by deliberate release of the smallpox virus and the best means of containing an outbreak. Models must balance biological realism against limitations of knowledge, and uncertainties need to be accurately communicated to policy-makers. Smallpox poses the particular challenge that key biological, social and spatial factors affecting disease spread in contemporary populations must be elucidated largely from historical studies undertaken before disease eradication in 1979. We review the use of models in smallpox planning within the broader epidemiological context set by recent outbreaks of both novel and re-emerging pathogens.
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