LAX in Center of Global Pandemic – with Video

LAX considered a “Global Super-Spreader”

Recent Research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ranks our own LAX as #2 in “contagion-spreading influence.”  They looked at travel patterns and how disease spreads worldwide.  They focused on the first 15 days of a disease spread, saying this approach could help determine ways to contain infection in an area, like distributing vaccinations or treatments in those early days.

Based on number of flights, where flights go and where the airport is located, the researchers determined how likely that airport will contribute to spreading disease.  Airports in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu are judged likeliest to play a significant role in the growth of a pandemic.  These are followed by San Francisco, Newark, Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles.  Other big airports: Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is first in number of  flights, ranks eighth in contagion influence and Boston’s Logan International Airport ranks 15th.

Well we know NY and LA are the two biggest cities, and that they have heavily-travelled airports, so they should be up there. But Honolulu, before Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world?  Researchers say because of it’s location and that the flights that go there go to well-connected airport hubs, so whatever is there will spread quickly.

Think about this next time you fly … to a Hawaii beach.  Then again, maybe you don’t want to.

What does this mean?!

We know lots of people go through LAX. It’s ranked #6 busiest passenger airport in the world (Wiki).  We know lots of the flights go overseas: Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle East.  It’s not hard to imagine lots of mixing of people there. Add a few coughers, and you know where that goes.  This research basically says the mixing of people from all the flights contributes to spread of disease.

Teaching Point:

Contagion vs. Pandemic vs. Epidemic vs. Endemic

This article models the spread of infectious disease around the world – something that public health officials pay attention to.  Many students get confused between the “-demics,” and I added contagion, since people also associate that word with health panic, especially after the 2011 movie.

  • Contagion is any contagious disease, any disease that spreads. Or it may be the disease bug/agent itself.
  • Epidemic – disease infects many more people than normal in a particular area, or spreads to an area that doesn’t normally see the disease.
  • Pandemic – is a widespread epidemic over 2 or more continents or even worldwide
  • Endemic describes a disease normally seen in an area (or even unique to that area). It doesn’t mean it’s widespread, but that there is always a very small number of people in the population that has it (a steady state).

Further Browsing:

  • Video showing daily air traffic patterns that contribute to this spread
  • Some articles from The Hill and LA Times
  • Press Release from MIT
  • Actual journal article if you want to practice your research journal reading, no subscription needed to read

Do you travel a lot? Where do you like to go?



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