Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering Informatics professors Filippo Radicchi and Santo Fortunato, along with Luddy School Ph.D. students Siddharth Pathwardhan and Varun Rao, are on the cutting edge of epidemic suppression.
Their work through the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research is highlighted in their co-authored paper, “Epidemic Spreading in Group-Structured Populations” that appeared in Physical Review X, a high-impact physics journal published by the American Physical Society that covers all branches of pure, applied and interdisciplinary physics.
The paper proposes a new theoretical approach for strategies to limit the spread of infectious diseases as well as make them less severe. Radicchi said the theory is validated by using Indiana University Bloomington housing and student enrollment data.
“The general message that emerges from the study is that managers of colleges (or other large organizations) have the possibility of making an epidemic much less severe by simply planning in an appropriate manner group activities/interactions,” Radicchi said. “The concrete example that we consider in the paper is the assignment of students to dorms based on the program in which they are enrolled.
“The epidemic becomes less severe in the sense that the epidemic curve is flattened and immunization becomes more effective.”
The study addressed the fact that when people do things together, such as going to classes and living in the same dorm, their proximity makes it easier for diseases to spread.
But, if universities change how people are grouped together, they can reduce disease spread.
The co-authors examined Indiana University data and found that if people are placed in dorms based on their classes, it can make the disease two to five times less severe.
“While our work has a natural application to containment of epidemics in college cities,” Fortunato said, “its validity goes way beyond that, involving all scenarios where it is possible to act on the compartmentalization of individuals.
“In a university, the enrollments are determined by the students, and the management can act mostly on their dorm accommodations. Conversely, for a large company, the residences are chosen by the employees, but the company can act on their allocation within their premises.”