Mapping the Spread of Contagions via Contact Tracing
A contagion passed by human contact, such as SARS or TB, spreads through human networks based on how infectious and susceptible each party is. Multiple contacts with infectious others play a role in the probability of infection. Contagions that flow through human-based networks can be bad(disease, gossip), good(ideas and information) or neutral(money and investments).
Public health officials perform contact tracing to map the spread of the infection and manage its diffusion. The network map above, created at the epidemiology unit of The Centers for Disease Control [CDC], shows the spread of an airborne infectious disease. The map was created using actual contact data from the community in which the outbreak was happening.
Black nodes are persons with clinical disease (and are potentially infectious), pink nodes represent exposed persons with incubating (or dormant) infection and are not infectious, green represent exposed persons with no infection and are not infectious. The infection status is unknown for the grey nodes.
Unfortunately the 'social butterfly' in this community, the black node in the center of the graph, is also the most infectious -- a super spreader.
Current procedures focus on inoculating the vulnerable -- often the very young and the very old. Network analysis tells us that it may be smarter, and more efficient, to focus on the spreaders -- those with many contacts to many groups.
For more information on how social network analysis assists contact tracing during a disease outbreak see...