Nav: Home

Mobility patterns influence the spread and containment of an epidemic

January 18, 2018

They have designed a mathematical model that predicts how mobility can encourage or reduce the spread of an epidemic. Using data from a large city (Cali, Colombia), they have demonstrated that daily mobility between districts reduces the spread of an epidemic, contrary to expectations. During an epidemic, common sense tells us that we should isolate ourselves from the rest of the population or reduce our movements to diminish the likelihood of contagion. However, far from improving the situation, isolating ourselves may increase our chances of contracting the disease and worsen the existing local situation.

People make regular journeys, they travel to another city or neighbourhood and then return home. The researchers therefore asked the question, does this mobility affect the spread of an epidemic?. "The answer is yes", explained the ICREA researcher, Àlex Arenas, from the URV's Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics, but in a way that is counter-intuitive: recurring mobility results in fewer epidemics. The mathematical model designed by the researchers corroborates this phenomenon and allows them to offer an explanation. They used data from various cities and "found that, to our surprise, an increase in mobility does not always increase the spread of an epidemic" explained Jesús Gómez Gardeñes, researcher at the Instituto Universitario de Investigación de Biocomputación y Física de Sistemas Complexos of the University of Zaragoza.

The cities and districts that they analysed (for example, neighbourhoods of Barcelona, Tarragona and Reus) differed in terms of the number of people who live there and, therefore, in terms of population density. So what is happening? When people move around during the course of their daily activities, these populations end up balancing themselves out; that is, the populations of business and office districts increase when people travel there from residential areas to work. The homogenisation of the population in metacities (cities that have connections between people who move around in a recurring manner) indicates that the spread of an epidemic could be reduced, in contrast to what was previously believed.

The spread of a disease and population density

In a small settlement, it is more difficult for diseases to spread because, although they remain just as infectious, fewer people will come into contact with them. In a larger settlement, therefore, the spread of infection is theoretically much more likely. However, the risk of widespread infection in these large populations is actually lower because of the increased mobility of people between them. The researchers' mathematical model can predict when this is likely to be the case. That is, it provides a more detailed understanding of why in certain cities the spread of an epidemic may be lower than in others, even though the level and means of infection in theory remain the same. Widespread mobility helps to even out the population and thus reduce the occurrence of epidemics.

The researchers believe that similar studies could be carried out on other cities or territories provided that there was sufficient accurate data regarding mobility between them. According to the researchers, analysing such data with this model could play a crucial role in developing policies for preventing the spread of an epidemic or predicting when one is likely to occur: "If we fail to understand how the spread of an epidemic is related to mobility, we will not be able to apply the right measures when the need arises" stated Arenas.
-end-


Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Related Infection Articles:

Male infertility: Urogenital infection as a possible cause
In couples who have not been able to have children, male infertility is the cause in at least half of cases.
A novel approach to seeing dengue infection in the body
Positron emission tomography (PET) paired with the glucose metabolism probe, fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), is considered 'old' technology in the field of cancer.
Smelling the risk of infection
Humans and monkeys are social beings and benefit from a community.
Tuberculosis and HIV co-infection
The HIV virus increases the potency of the tuberculosis bacterium (Mtb) by affecting a central function of the immune system.
New insight into course and transmission of Zika infection
In one of the first and largest studies of its kind, a research team lead by virologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has characterized the progression of two strains of the viral infection.
UTMB researchers protect against lethal Ebola Sudan infection four days after infection
Researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in collaboration with Arbutus Biopharma Corporation, have protected nonhuman primates against Ebola Sudan four days following exposure to the virus.
How tumor necrosis factor protects against infection
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a messenger substance in the immune system, plays an important role in triggering chronic inflammatory diseases.
Gene amplification -- the fast track to infection
Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden are first to discover that bacteria can multiply disease-inducing genes which are needed to rapidly cause infection.
New test allows for one-step diagnosis of HCV infection
The current standard in diagnosing Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection requires two sequential steps that make it suboptimal, costly, inconvenient, time consuming, and globally not widely available or affordable.
Do dressings prevent infection?
There is insufficient evidence to know whether dressings reduce the risk of wound infection after surgery and, in some cases, leaving a wound exposed may be better, say researchers in The BMJ today.

Related Infection Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...