On the role of human mobility in the spread of cholera epidemics: towards an epidemiological movement ecology
We investigate the role of human mobility as a driver for long-range spreading of cholera infections, which otherwise primarily propagate through hydrologically controlled ecological corridors. We rely on a recent mechanistic, field-data validated, spatially explicit model of disease epidemic made up by a two-layer network model that accounts for the interplay between epidemiological dynamics, hydrological transport and long-distance dissemination of the pathogen Vibrio cholerae due to host movement. Here we extend the original model and probe different schemes of human mobility, possibly accounting also for restriction policies aimed at slowing down the evolution of the outbreak in space and time. We show that long-range human movement is indeed an efficient vector of disease propagation, thus playing a defining role in the formation of regional patterns of cholera epidemics. We conclude that properly designed interventions on human mobility could be an aid to the control of cholera outbreaks and suggest that bridging epidemiology and movement ecology might actually contribute to a better understanding of how waterborne diseases propagate at various scales. Copyright (C) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.