Human Mobility and Spatial Disease Dynamics

The understanding of human mobility and the development of qualitative models as well as quantitative theories for it is of key importance to the research of human infectious disease dynamics on large geographical scales. In our globalized world, mobility and traffic have reached a complexity and volume of unprecedented degree. Long range human mobility is now responsible for the rapid geographical spread of emergent infectious diseases. Multiscale human mobility networks exhibit two prominent features: (1) Networks exhibit a strong heterogeneity, the distribution of weights, traffic fluxes and populations sizes of communities range over many orders of magnitude. (2) Although the interaction magnitude in terms of traffic intensities decreases with distance, the observed power-laws indicate that long range interactions play a significant role in spatial disease dynamics. We will review how the topological features of traffic networks can be incorporated in models for disease dynamics and show, that the way topology is translated into dynamics can have a profound impact on the overall disease dynamics. We will also introduce a class of spatially extended models in which the impact and interplay of both spatial heterogeneity as well as long range spatial interactions can be investigated in a systematic fashion. Our analysis of multiscale human mobility networks is based on a proxy network of dispersing US dollar bills, which we incorporated in a model to produce real-time epidemic forecasts that projected the spatial spread of the recent outbreak of Influenza A(H1N1).