Logan is the 15th Best Airport for Spreading Disease

New MIT research rethinks how people get sick when they fly.

The only thing airports move faster and more efficiently than people is, apparently, infectious disease. That’s according to some new research out of MIT, which looked at how diseases spread in U.S. airports in the first 15 days of an outbreak. Logan is 15th on the list, thanks to its connectivity (they don’t call Boston the Hub for nothing), traffic (we’re ranked 19th by volume), and geography. Researchers hope this info will help federal agencies better react to outbreak like SARS or the H1N1 bird flu, which combined to kill more than 300,000 people worldwide.

The innovation here is that researchers used cell phone data to discover predictable patterns of movement. In the past, modelling like this assumed that airports spread people and their nasty diseases randomly, which seems, well, idiotic. Christos Nicolaides, one of four MIT researchers involved, agrees in the most scientific way possible: “If you include diffusion only in the model, the biggest airport hubs in terms of traffic would be the most influential spreaders of disease. But that’s not accurate.” Nope. It’s about connectivity.

I suppose the clock is now ticking for outbreak managers to turn this data into something actionable. Otherwise, this info will be the most enormous told you so ever since some traveler carries a super bug from Kennedy Airport (1st on the list), to LAX (2nd) on his way to some much-needed vacation in Honolulu (11th).