Trip duration drives shift in travel network structure with implications for the predictability of spatial disease spread

Giles JR, Cummings DAT, Grenfell BT, Tatem AJ, Erbach-Schoenberg EZ, Metcalf C, Wesolowski A


Human travel is one of the primary drivers of infectious disease spread. Models of travel are often used that assume the amount of travel to a specific destination decreases as cost of travel increases with higher travel volumes to more populated destinations. Trip duration, the length of time spent in a destination, can also impact travel patterns. We investigated the spatial patterns of travel conditioned on trip duration and find distinct differences between short and long duration trips. In short-trip duration travel networks, trips are skewed towards urban destinations, compared with long-trip duration networks where travel is more evenly spread among locations. Using gravity models to inform connectivity patterns in simulations of disease transmission, we show that pathogens with shorter generation times exhibit initial patterns of spatial propagation that are more predictable among urban locations. Further, pathogens with a longer generation time have more diffusive patterns of spatial spread reflecting more unpredictable disease dynamics.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.