Airports' disease control analysed

31 July 2012 12:07

Researchers have looked at how resistant different airports are to the spread of disease

Researchers have looked at how resistant different airports are to the spread of disease

Even though you might feel in perfect health before you set off on holiday, it is still wise to take out medical travel insurance as you never know what might happen while on your travels.

And it's not necessarily the exotic location you're travelling to where you might pick up an illness, the danger might be much closer to home. With lots of people in one place - many of whom have just arrived back from far-flung locations - the airport you're taking off from, for example, could be a prime spot for disease to spread.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Civil and Environmental Engineering department, published in the journal PLoS ONE, looked at the 40 largest US airports to find out which ones would be the most likely to spread infections if there was an outbreak in their respective cities.

Numerous factors were considered such as passengers' travel patterns, the airport's geographic location, interactions between airports and even passenger waiting times.

The results were surprising as an airport's susceptibility to spread of disease were not necessarily linked to its size or how many travellers passed through it. Although John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport were the two most vulnerable, far smaller Honolulu International Airport was third on the researchers' list.

Despite it carrying only 30% as much traffic as Kennedy, Honolulu was ranked so highly because of its position in the air transportation network: in the Pacific Ocean, with many connections to distant, large, and well-connected hubs.

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