Natural human mobility patterns and spatial spread of infectious diseases

Physical Review X 1 (1), 011001


We investigate a model for spatial epidemics explicitly taking into account bidirectional movements between base and destination locations on individual mobility networks. We provide a systematic analysis of generic dynamical features of the model on regular and complex metapopulation network topologies and show that significant dynamical differences exist to ordinary reaction-diffusion and effective force of infection models. On a lattice we calculate an expression for the velocity of the propagating epidemic front and find that, in contrast to the diffusive systems, our model predicts a saturation of the velocity with an increasing traveling rate. Furthermore, we show that a fully stochastic system exhibits a novel threshold for the attack ratio of an outbreak that is absent in diffusion and force of infection models. These insights not only capture natural features of human mobility relevant for the geographical epidemic spread, they may serve as a starting point for modeling important dynamical processes in human and animal epidemiology, population ecology, biology, and evolution.

Dirk Brockmann
Dirk Brockmann

Head of Research on Complex Systems Group