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Video: How flights from 37 U.S. airports could drive a global health epidemic

Excerpt from The Atlantic Cities

Jul 27, 2012 3:52 am

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MIT researchers considered size of airport, its role in international travel, and traveler mobility patterns to rank which U.S. airports would be the most influential during the first 15 days of an epidemic.

— Samantha Shankman

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In the age of globalization, disease spreads about as quickly as commerce, news and ideas do. Take, for instance, the 2003 SARS outbreak. It quickly dispersed from Hong Kong to 37 countries (killing nearly 1,000 people), and this happened, in part, because of airplane travel.

We now know that airports are key nodes in the spread of global pandemics, although all airports obviously don’t influence this process in the same way. You might assume that the busiest airport hubs would create the biggest ripple effect in exposing a global population to a local outbreak. But new research published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests the network of how and where people travel through airports (taking contagion with them) is much more complicated.

The top 5 disease-friendly airports:

  1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  2. Los Angeles International (LAX)
  3. Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  4. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  5. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

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