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Multiscale mobility networks and the spatial spreading of infectious diseases.

Abstract

Among the realistic ingredients to be considered in the computational modeling of infectious diseases, human mobility represents a crucial challenge both on the theoretical side and in view of the limited availability of empirical data. To study the interplay between short-scale commuting flows and long-range airline traffic in shaping the spatiotemporal pattern of a global epidemic we (i) analyze mobility data from 29 countries around the world and find a gravity model able to provide a global description of commuting patterns up to 300 kms and (ii) integrate in a worldwide-structured metapopulation epidemic model a timescale-separation technique for evaluating the force of infection due to multiscale mobility processes in the disease dynamics. Commuting flows are found, on average, to be one order of magnitude larger than airline flows. However, their introduction into the worldwide model shows that the large-scale pattern of the simulated epidemic exhibits only small variations with respect to the baseline case where only airline traffic is considered. The presence of short-range mobility increases, however, the synchronization of subpopulations in close proximity and affects the epidemic behavior at the periphery of the airline transportation infrastructure. The present approach outlines the possibility for the definition of layered computational approaches where different modeling assumptions and granularities can be used consistently in a unifying multiscale framework.

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