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Science

LAX Could be America's Next Top Disease Magnet

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Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 8:05 AM

click to enlarge LAX. - BREWBOOKS / FLICKR
  • brewbooks / Flickr
  • LAX.
Ah, beautiful L.A., home of beaches and billionaires and Playboy bunnies. And now we are a top American gateway ... for disease.

Wonderful.

New research from MIT says that LAX and New York's John F. Kennedy would be ground zeroes for outbreaks, such as the next ...

... Sars-style or swine flu-type event.

Our airport actually came in second to Kennedy in being the biggest probable bug-attraction portal in the nation.

The research published this week in the journal PLoS One looked at America's 40 largest airports to determined how they would handle the spread of the next big global outbreak.

The study looked at travel patterns. So why LAX? It's big and it attracts visitors from Asia. A summary sort of explains the rationale:

click to enlarge lax_plane_below.jpg

... while the Honolulu airport gets only 30 percent as much air traffic as New York's Kennedy International Airport, the new model predicts that it is nearly as influential in terms of contagion, because of where it fits in the air transportation network: Its location in the Pacific Ocean and its many connections to distant, large and well-connected hubs gives it a ranking of third in terms of contagion-spreading influence.

Kennedy Airport is ranked first by the model, followed by airports in Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco, Newark, Chicago (O'Hare) and Washington (Dulles).

Professor of civil and environmental engineering Marta González:

The study of spreading dynamics and human mobility, using tools of complex networks, can be applied to many different fields of study to improve predictive models.

So next time you're at LAX, act like a celebrity being chased by paparazzi and duck under your nearest coat lapel. Or better yet, don't be at LAX and drive.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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