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      Prediction and predictability of global epidemics: the role of the airline transportation network

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          Abstract

          The systematic study of large-scale networks has unveiled the ubiquitous presence of connectivity patterns characterized by large scale heterogeneities and unbounded statistical fluctuations. These features affect dramatically the behavior of the diffusion processes occurring on networks, determining the ensuing statistical properties of their evolution pattern and dynamics. In this paper, we investigate the role of the large scale properties of the airline transportation network in determining the global evolution of emerging disease. We present a stochastic computational framework for the forecast of global epidemics that considers the complete world-wide air travel infrastructure complemented with census population data. We address two basic issues in global epidemic modeling: i) We study the role of the large scale properties of the airline transportation network in determining the global diffusion pattern of emerging diseases; ii) We evaluate the reliability of forecasts and outbreak scenarios with respect to the intrinsic stochasticity of disease transmission and traffic flows. In order to address these issues we define a set of novel quantitative measures able to characterize the level of heterogeneity and predictability of the epidemic pattern. These measures may be used for the analysis of containment policies and epidemic risk assessment.

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          Most cited references18

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          Statistical mechanics of complex networks

          Complex networks describe a wide range of systems in nature and society, much quoted examples including the cell, a network of chemicals linked by chemical reactions, or the Internet, a network of routers and computers connected by physical links. While traditionally these systems were modeled as random graphs, it is increasingly recognized that the topology and evolution of real networks is governed by robust organizing principles. Here we review the recent advances in the field of complex networks, focusing on the statistical mechanics of network topology and dynamics. After reviewing the empirical data that motivated the recent interest in networks, we discuss the main models and analytical tools, covering random graphs, small-world and scale-free networks, as well as the interplay between topology and the network's robustness against failures and attacks.
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            Epidemic spreading in scale-free networks

            The Internet, as well as many other networks, has a very complex connectivity recently modeled by the class of scale-free networks. This feature, which appears to be very efficient for a communications network, favors at the same time the spreading of computer viruses. We analyze real data from computer virus infections and find the average lifetime and prevalence of viral strains on the Internet. We define a dynamical model for the spreading of infections on scale-free networks, finding the absence of an epidemic threshold and its associated critical behavior. This new epidemiological framework rationalize data of computer viruses and could help in the understanding of other spreading phenomena on communication and social networks.
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              The architecture of complex weighted networks

              Networked structures arise in a wide array of different contexts such as technological and transportation infrastructures, social phenomena, and biological systems. These highly interconnected systems have recently been the focus of a great deal of attention that has uncovered and characterized their topological complexity. Along with a complex topological structure, real networks display a large heterogeneity in the capacity and intensity of the connections. These features, however, have mainly not been considered in past studies where links are usually represented as binary states, i.e. either present or absent. Here, we study the scientific collaboration network and the world-wide air-transportation network, which are representative examples of social and large infrastructure systems, respectively. In both cases it is possible to assign to each edge of the graph a weight proportional to the intensity or capacity of the connections among the various elements of the network. We define new appropriate metrics combining weighted and topological observables that enable us to characterize the complex statistical properties and heterogeneity of the actual strength of edges and vertices. This information allows us to investigate for the first time the correlations among weighted quantities and the underlying topological structure of the network. These results provide a better description of the hierarchies and organizational principles at the basis of the architecture of weighted networks.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                18 July 2005
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0510525103
                1413717
                16461461
                q-bio/0507029
                f5f5c6ab-073b-4e8d-908d-88fa4a6bd28d
                History
                Custom metadata
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103, 2015 (2006)
                20 pages, 5 figures
                q-bio.OT physics.bio-ph

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