An infectious disease striking a large city may seem like a disastrous scenario -- millions of people sharing apartment buildings, crammed on buses and trains and brushing past one another on crowded sidewalks.
Image courtesy of K-State College of Engineering
A graph showing one rural resident, represented in the center, and all of the people that person is connected with, represented by nodes radiating from the center.
A group of Kansas State University engineers is finding that a truly disastrous epidemic scenario could also take place in the wide-open spaces of the Great Plains. Caterina Scoglio, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is leading an Epicenter research project called SGER: Exploratory research on complex network approach to epidemic spreading in rural regions.
Scoglio is working with Todd Easton, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; Robert Kooij, adjunct associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Walter Schumm, professor of family studies and human services.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, they are using academic models to study the spread of diseases in rural areas. Their goal is to identify optimal strategies to forecast and control disease outbreaks in rural areas.
"What are used as mitigation strategies in cities will not be so effective in rural areas," Scoglio said. "In cities, people have a lot of informal contact with one another but looser ties."
This means that during a disease outbreak, urban residents are less likely to interact with sick neighbors and therefore less likely to contract or spread a disease. On the other hand, Schumm found that 35 percent of rural residents would be willing to visit other people in the community during a major epidemic, citing the results of a rural survey recently conducted as part of the project.
"In a rural setting, you're maybe more likely to watch out for all of your neighbors, and your neighbors may also be your uncles, aunts and other family members," Easton said.
Easton's research group ran a computer simulation on a hypothetical disease outbreak in a rural town in which on Day 1 everyone is healthy. By Day 20, they found that everyone would have contracted the disease.
"We found that person-to-person contact is most important," Easton said. "Having a population with two times as many interpersonal contacts is more dangerous than a disease that is twice as virulent. This shows that the government's ability to limit travel during an epidemic is very important."
Not only does their research show that rural residents may be more likely to maintain normal levels of social contact than urban residents, but the researchers said that the decreased access to hospitals and physicians also make rural areas especially vulnerable during an epidemic.
The computer models suggest that vaccines be administered to people who have contact with the largest network of friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Scoglio said that it would be equally important to vaccinate people who don't have many contacts themselves but who are a common link between two well-connected communities.
The researchers don't see technology like cell phones and Web calling reducing person-to-person contact among rural residents during an epidemic in the way it would for urban residents. For one thing, Easton said, rural populations tend to be older and may not have adopted some technologies as rapidly. Also, high-speed internet connections and cellular phone service can be limited in rural areas, encouraging more interpersonal interactions in a major epidemic event.
The research was presented in Hyogo, Japan, in Delft, Netherlands, and most recently at the International Federation for Information Processing Networking 2009 in Aachen, Germany. It also is slated to appear in multiple academic journals.Sources: Caterina Scoglio, 785-532-4646, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Caterina Scoglio | Newswise Science News
How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism
19.01.2018 | Weill Cornell Medicine
Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy