A probabilistic transmission dynamic model to assess indoor airborne infection risks

Risk Anal. 2005 Oct;25(5):1097-107. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2005.00663.x.


The purpose of this article is to quantify the public health risk associated with inhalation of indoor airborne infection based on a probabilistic transmission dynamic modeling approach. We used the Wells-Riley mathematical model to estimate (1) the CO2 exposure concentrations in indoor environments where cases of inhalation airborne infection occurred based on reported epidemiological data and epidemic curves for influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), (2) the basic reproductive number, R0 (i.e., expected number of secondary cases on the introduction of a single infected individual in a completely susceptible population) and its variability in a shared indoor airspace, and (3) the risk for infection in various scenarios of exposure in a susceptible population for a range of R0. We also employ a standard susceptible-infectious-recovered (SIR) structure to relate Wells-Riley model derived R0 to a transmission parameter to implicate the relationships between indoor carbon dioxide concentration and contact rate. We estimate that a single case of SARS will infect 2.6 secondary cases on average in a population from nosocomial transmission, whereas less than 1 secondary infection was generated per case among school children. We also obtained an estimate of the basic reproductive number for influenza in a commercial airliner: the median value is 10.4. We suggest that improving the building air cleaning rate to lower the critical rebreathed fraction of indoor air can decrease transmission rate. Here, we show that virulence of the organism factors, infectious quantum generation rates (quanta/s by an infected person), and host factors determine the risk for inhalation of indoor airborne infection.

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Child
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology
  • Community-Acquired Infections / transmission
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infections / transmission*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / transmission
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / transmission
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Ventilation


  • Carbon Dioxide