Thriller Science: MIT researches airports’ role in disease contagion

MIT News reports on using mathematical models of “complex network systems” to predict the role of U.S. airports in spreading a contagious disease. The press release says this work “could help determine appropriate measures for containing infection in specific geographic areas and aid public health officials in making decisions about the distribution of vaccinations or treatments in the earliest days of contagion.”

Some of the conclusions don’t require a PhD to understand–the top two “nodes” for spread are New York’s JFK airport and Los Angeles’ LAX. But the math revealed a surprising #3: Honolulu.

“…while the Honolulu airport gets only 30 percent as much air traffic as New York’s Kennedy International Airport, the new model predicts that it is nearly as influential in terms of contagion, because of where it fits in the air transportation network: Its location in the Pacific Ocean and its many connections to distant, large and well-connected hubs gives it a ranking of third in terms of contagion-spreading influence.”

Click here to read the full news story (with a wonderful image of global travel connections), or watch the one minute video summary below.

“Thriller Science” series features fascinating news or information from the world of real science. Each post addresses a science topic that either has appeared in a science-themed thriller–or is great source material for future science thrillers.
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