Monday, September 27, 2010
Predicting Epidemics using Social Network Analysis
We posted a few months ago on the book Connected and how social network analysis is relevant to the fields of epidemiology and infection control. In the journal PLoS One, the authors Christakis and Fowler published specifics on the study briefly mentioned in Connected about a social network experiment performed on the campus of Harvard University.
Long story short, by mapping out the network of friends in a group of over 300 students, they were able to predict the onset of a flu epidemic two weeks earlier than through random sampling or by other means. In the case of SARS or swine flu, those two weeks could be the difference between a local epidemic and a global pandemic if public health officials had access to this data. There are many potential applications for social network analysis in the study of disease, but real-time public health applications may require private health data that individuals are as yet unwilling to make available outside of a controlled study on a college campus.
Big Think: A Better Way to Predict Epidemics
PLoS ONE: Social Network Sensors for Early Detection of Contagious Outbreaks
Big Think: Nicholas Christakis Interview