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LAX tops MIT's list of airports likely to spread a simulated pandemic

Encounters at Los Angeles International Airport.
Encounters at Los Angeles International Airport.
Photo by monkeytime | brachiator via Flickr Creative Commons

Some U.S. airports have yoga rooms, some offer live music, some are known for free ping pong, and others are singled out for their likeliness to spread global pandemic. Welcome to LAX. The yellow curb is for wheezing only.

MIT researchers published in the journal PLoS ONE, the findings of a computer simulated global health crisis that points to the U.S. airports most likely to contribute to the inital spread of infectious disease.

The "early-time" spread simulation examined the first few days of a multiplying contagion, considering airport location, passenger travel behavior, connecting airport patterns, flight wait times, where the outbreak originates, and data from existing pandemic models. 

Locations implicated in early spread stage were found to be different than locations posing a high risk later in the ordeal. The observation led to the identification of three airports deemed "early-time super-spreaders": JFK in New York, LAX in Los Angeles, and HNL in Honolulu.

In a news release, MIT professor and project researcher Ruben Juanes said, "The findings could form the basis for an initial evaluation of vaccine allocation strategies in the event of an outbreak, and could inform national security agencies of the most vulnerable pathways for biological attacks in a densely connected world."

Frequent fliers SARS and H1N1 both previously jetsetted their way to global pandemic status aboard humans aboard airplanes.