Which of the 40 largest airports in the U.S. would most likely spread disease in the event of an outbreak in the cities they serve?
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Civil and Environmental Engineering department studies show John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport were first and second, while, Honolulu International Airport ranked third.
An airport's ranking on the researchers' list was not necessarily tied to its size or busyness.
For example, even though Honolulu International Airport carries only 30% as much traffic as Kennedy, it has its place on the list because it has many connections to distant, large, and well-connected hubs.
The study, published July 19 in the journal PLoS ONE, factored in data such as the airports' geographic locations, passengers' travel patterns, interactions between airports and even passenger waiting times.
Following Kennedy, Los Angeles and Honolulu on the list are San Francisco International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Atlanta, Miami International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport round out the top 10.
Existing models look only at the final stages of an epidemic and the places that ultimately develop the highest infection rates. The researchers say their new model can help determine ways to contain an infection in a specific area.
Prof. Yamir Moreno of the University of Zaragoza, who studies complex networks and spreading patterns of epidemics, says, "The work done by the MIT team paves the way to find new containment strategies" because it allows a better understanding of the patterns characterizing the initial stages of a disease outbreak.
A CNN Wires report.