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March 16, 1990

Farr's Law Applied to AIDS Projections

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

From the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

JAMA. 1990;263(11):1522-1525. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440110088033

Farr's Law of Epidemics, first promulgated in 1840 and resurrected by Brownlee in the early 1900s, states that epidemics tend to rise and fall in a roughly symmetrical pattern that can be approximated by a normal bell-shaped curve. We applied this simple law to the reported annual incidence of cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in the United States from 1982 through 1987. The 6 years of incidence data closely fit a normal distribution that crests in late 1988 and then declines to a low point by the mid-1990s. The projected size of the epidemic falls in the range of 200 000 cases. A continuing incidence of endemic cases can be expected to emerge, but we believe it will occur at a low level.

(JAMA. 1990;263:1522-1525)

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