Researchers list top 10 airports for spreading diseases

You’re not the only one travelling


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department looked at the 40 largest U.S. airports and figured out which ones would be the most likely to spread a disease in the event of an outbreak in the cities they serve.


They factored in passengers’ travel patterns, the airports’ geographic locations, interactions between airports and even passenger waiting times for their study, published July 19 in the journal PLoS ONE.


One of the surprises in their findings was that an airport’s ranking on the researchers’ list was not necessarily tied to its size or busyness.


While John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport were first and second on the list, respectively, Honolulu International Airport ranked third, even though it carries only 30% as much traffic as Kennedy.


The researchers said that’s because of Honolulu’s place in the air transportation network: in the Pacific Ocean, with many connections to distant, large, and well-connected hubs.


Though Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport ranks first in the number of flights, it was eighth on the researchers’ list of potential disease spreaders.


Rounding off the top ten


Following Kennedy, Los Angeles and Honolulu on the list are San Francisco International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Atlanta, Miami International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport round out the top 10.

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