Calling in Sick: Impacts of Fever on Intra-Urban Human Mobility


Pathogens inflict a wide variety of disease manifestations on their hosts, yet the impacts of disease on the behaviour of infected hosts are rarely studied empirically and are seldom accounted for in mathematical models of transmission dynamics. We explored the potential impacts of one of the most common disease manifestations, fever, on a key determinant of pathogen transmission, host mobility, in residents of the Amazonian city of Iquitos, Peru. We did so by comparing two groups of febrile individuals (dengue-positive and dengue-negative) with an afebrile control group. A retrospective, semi-structured interview allowed us to quantify multiple aspects of mobility during the two-week period preceding each interview. We fitted nested models of each aspect of mobility to data from interviews and compared models using likelihood ratio tests to determine whether there were statistically distinguishable differences in mobility attributable to fever or its aetiology. Compared with afebrile individuals, febrile study participants spent more time at home, visited fewer locations, and, in some cases, visited locations closer to home and spent less time at certain types of locations. These multifaceted impacts are consistent with the possibility that disease-mediated changes in host mobility generate dynamic and complex changes in host contact network structure.

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