Human movement is a key behavioral factor in many vector-borne disease systems because it influences exposure to vectors and thus the transmission of pathogens. Human movement transcends spatial and temporal scales with different influences on disease dynamics. Here we develop a conceptual model to evaluate the importance of variation in exposure due to individual human movements for pathogen transmission, focusing on mosquito-borne dengue virus.
We develop a model showing that the relevance of human movement at a particular scale depends on vector behavior. Focusing on the day-biting Aedes aegypti, we illustrate how vector biting behavior combined with fine-scale movements of individual humans engaged in their regular daily routine can influence transmission. Using a simple example, we estimate a transmission rate ( R 0 ) of 1.3 when exposure is assumed to occur only in the home versus 3.75 when exposure at multiple locations—e.g., market, friend's—due to movement is considered. Movement also influences for which sites and individuals risk is greatest. For the example considered, intriguingly, our model predicts little correspondence between vector abundance in a site and estimated R 0 for that site when movement is considered. This illustrates the importance of human movement for understanding and predicting the dynamics of a disease like dengue. To encourage investigation of human movement and disease, we review methods currently available to study human movement and, based on our experience studying dengue in Peru, discuss several important questions to address when designing a study.
Human movement is a critical, understudied behavioral component underlying the transmission dynamics of many vector-borne pathogens. Understanding movement will facilitate identification of key individuals and sites in the transmission of pathogens such as dengue, which then may provide targets for surveillance, intervention, and improved disease prevention.
Vector-borne diseases constitute a largely neglected and enormous burden on public health in many resource-challenged environments, demanding efficient control strategies that could be developed through improved understanding of pathogen transmission. Human movement—which determines exposure to vectors—is a key behavioral component of vector-borne disease epidemiology that is poorly understood. We develop a conceptual framework to organize past studies by the scale of movement and then examine movements at fine-scale—i.e., people going through their regular, daily routine—that determine exposure to insect vectors for their role in the dynamics of pathogen transmission. We develop a model to quantify risk of vector contact across locations people visit, with emphasis on mosquito-borne dengue virus in the Amazonian city of Iquitos, Peru. An example scenario illustrates how movement generates variation in exposure risk across individuals, how transmission rates within sites can be increased, and that risk within sites is not solely determined by vector density, as is commonly assumed. Our analysis illustrates the importance of human movement for pathogen transmission, yet little is known—especially for populations most at risk to vector-borne diseases (e.g., dengue, leishmaniasis, etc.). We outline several important considerations for designing epidemiological studies to encourage investigation of individual human movement, based on experience studying dengue.