In a study released last week from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based in Cambridge, engineers show through computer modeling how major international US airports might contribute to the spread of contagious disease during the early days of an epidemic. The culprits that could contribute the most damage turn out to be airports in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu, Hawaii. “Our work is the first to look at the spatial spreading of contagion processes at early times, and to propose a predictor for which ‘nodes’—in this case, airports—will lead to more aggressive spatial spreading,” said MIT computer engineer Ruben Juanes in a statement. The new model, unlike previous ones, considers the routines that passengers usually follow when traveling, an airport’s geographic location, how flights connect—or don’t—between airports, and, finally, how a long wait at an airport could influence how diseases spread.
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