Human mobility data may help curb urban epidemics

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | April 25, 2013

Emory post-doc Donal Bisanzio created a data visualization, above, of the movement routines of people in Iquitos, Peru.

Residents of cities like New York and London tend to move about in fairly predictable routines, following the same routes between their jobs and schools each day. When it comes to a city in the developing world, however, human movement is much more varied, a finding with important implications for controlling an infectious disease pandemic.

The Public Library of Science (PL0S One) published the first major analysis of daily human mobility in a resource-poor city, led by scientists at Emory University’s Department of Environmental Studies.

The researchers used GPS technology to quantify the movement and contact dynamics of nearly 600 residents of Iquitos, Peru. They applied the data to create a computer simulation for predicting the transmission rate of a flu virus.

“We found that the irregular movement of people in Iquitos increases the probability of flu transmission by 20 percent, compared to cities in developed nations,” says lead author Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, an Emory disease ecologist.

The study authors are making their data estimates and simulation methods publicly available, so that other researchers can conduct further experiments and build on their work.

Full story in eScienceCommons »