MIT models which airports are most likely to spread disease

Researchers at MIT used network theory to put together a model of how an infectious disease might spread around the world with the help of American airports. The model shows which features—geography, connectivity, levels of use—most impact the spread of disease and use that to predict which airports would be at the heart of an outbreak.

Some are not a shock. ("Oh, you say JFK and LAX could serve as worldwide hubs for disease?") But the model also reveals some surprising spark points. Like, say, Anchorage. It's also interesting to see the order that the model ranks airports in. Would you believe that Honolulu has more disease-spreading power than Atlanta?

Read the full journal article at PLOS One, an open-access scientific journal.

Read a short summary at the Nature Medicine blog


  1. Yeah, but ATL has built-in CDC Defense Bunkers. So, of course ATL isn’t going to be listed as high as others.  I mean.. haven’t you learned anything from The Walking Dead?

  2. It would also be interesting to know how much the TSA and terror hysteria has increased the intrinsic disease-propagating  vulnerabilities of air transport systems.

    You can pretty much guarantee that packing more people together for longer times would be enough to spread more disease, even without all the handling of people’s junk – but it would be interesting to know the degree to which our security theatre programs are damaging public health.

    1. Having thousands of people take their shoes off and stand in the same spot on the carpet is a colossally stupid idea if you want to prevent the spread of pathogens. That risk alone probably outweighs the risk of any terrorist attack.

  3. Honolulu > Atlanta?   Yes, based on the attitude of Agricultural Homeland Defense Agent who was unconvinced that my GI tract could safely sequester the awesome pathogenic power of the tomatoes and cucumbers in the sandwich I had just purchased 50 meters away in the terminal.

  4. Hey I played that game on Kongregate! Zombie attack or something. Cool graphics, for Flash that is.

  5. Despite being the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta is primarily a domestic hub. There are plenty of international flights, just not as nearly many as places like JFK and LAX. Fear not, Atlanta has a new international terminal and Delta has been expanding their international routes so soon ATL might be as deadly as anywhere else.

  6. Madagascar!

    I hate that the latest versions of their games only seem to be on iOS devices. *sigh* I really loved the idea of  the game Pandemic 2, but the implementation had some issues.

    1. There’s a cardboard-and-dice version of that, also called Pandemic, that’s pretty brilliant.

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