III.3 Impact of Air Travel on Global Spread of Infectious Diseases

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Vittoria Colizza

Alessandro Vespignani

Elisha F. H. Allgood

In 2007, physicists Vittoria Colizza and Alessandro Vespignani developed a large-scale, stochastic, spatial-transmission model to study epidemic spread patterns. In collaboration with graphic designer Elisha F. Hardy, they visualized those modeling results through a map that illustrates the global spreading of emerging infectious diseases. Detailed knowledge of the worldwide population distribution and movement patterns of individuals by air travel is explicitly incorporated into the model to describe the spatio¬temporal evolution of epidemics in our highly interconnected and globalized world. Simulation results can be used to identify the main mechanisms behind observed propagation patterns (e.g., the patched and heterogeneous spreading of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003) and to provide forecasts for future emerging infectious diseases (e.g., a newly emerging influenza pandemic). Such maps might be of crucial help in the identification, design, and implementation of appropriate intervention strategies aimed at possible containment.


Colizza, Vittoria, Alain Barrat, Marc Barthélemy, and Alessandro Vespignani. 2006. “The Role of the Airline Transportation Network in the Prediction and Predictability of Global Epidemics.” PNAS 103 (7) : 2015-2020.

Colizza, Vittoria, Alessandro Vespignani, and Elisha F. Hardy. 2007. Impact of Air Travel on Global Spread of Infectious Diseases. Courtesy of Indiana University. In “3rd Iteration (2007): The Power of Forecasts,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Julie M. Davis. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.