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MIT researchers have analyzed airport hubs that will be key to spreading a virulent disease – can you guess the top three?

July 25, 2012

My kinda research report…I just arrived in Honolulu tonight to work for the next four days and I get an email from a friend who sends me the link to this story…I love it!

Apparently MIT researchers have analyzed which airport hubs would be key to spreading a virulent disease.  In a paper published July 23 in the journal PLoS One, these researchers outlined a new computer model that predicts how the 40 largest American airports may contribute to the diffusion of contagious disease within the first few days of a potential epidemic. How cool is that?!!?!?!?

The top three airports?  New York’s John F Kennedy airport and Los Angeles’s airports will likely be the key spreaders of disease. Those are likely not a surprise however the third might be… Honolulu International.  The third most outbreak-friendly airport in the states is far smaller and a lot less obvious but it has great qualities to spread disease.

Factors other than sheer volume of travelers may contribute to the spread of disease. There are critical factors to look at:  Connectivity, traffic and geography.  And Honolulu airport combines these three important features that catalyze contagion spreading. Its geographical positioning in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes it a prime layover between the US west coast and large Asian hubs; it’s also “well connected” to other powerful spreader airports, such as LAX; and it sees a high volume of long-range travel; all of which would help to spread a disease outbreak.

The study is interesting and there is a very cool video that shows the animation…it is enough to make you want to stay home…Almost!  😉

As I look out my window across Waikiki Beach, I find myself thinking of all the things I might have touched at the airport…Gulp! I think I’ll go wash my hands again!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mario Morales permalink
    July 25, 2012 08:09

    Regina: I have been all through the PLoS One site looking for the MIT study (research) you mention here. Cannot seem to find it (for the 23 July 2012 date). What is the name of the study?

    • July 25, 2012 16:19

      HI Mario
      No worries…it was HARD to find….I will also add it to the blog…..thanks! Be well, Regina

  2. Jwmacey permalink
    July 30, 2012 02:58

    Hmm, the University of Hawaii is trying to get $45 million to build a Bio Lab that the public does not want so now we see this propaganda study to try and justify it?!?! Come on, Honolulu is nowhere near the top of the list for air travel and geographically is the most distant from any other landmass so how again is Honolulu in third place?!?! You people amaze me with your obvious lies.

    • July 30, 2012 03:04

      Thanks for your email. I appreciate your skepticism. I would encourage you to read the research article…the issue about Hawaii is the proximity to Asia and the mixing of animal and human genes in Asia. Due to how people keep their livestock (mammals and birds), they are in such close proximity to them (interface intensely, live often with them, etc.) it is easy for illnesses to pass back and forth. Several bird diseases transfer fairly easily and many pig ones do. The 2009 Influenza pandemic has been traced to the movement of swine back and forth from Asia to South America and the evolution of the virus took over 9 years. Disease theory is interesting and complicated and with DNA and genetic studies is increasingly accurate. Be well, Regina


  1. MIT researchers have analyzed airport hubs that will be key to spreading a virulent disease – can you guess the top three? - Disaster Recovery : Disaster Recovery

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