Multinational patterns of seasonal asymmetry in human movement influence infectious disease dynamics

Nat Commun. 2017 Dec 12;8(1):2069. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02064-4.


Seasonal variation in human mobility is globally ubiquitous and affects the spatial spread of infectious diseases, but the ability to measure seasonality in human movement has been limited by data availability. Here, we use mobile phone data to quantify seasonal travel and directional asymmetries in Kenya, Namibia, and Pakistan, across a spectrum from rural nomadic populations to highly urbanized communities. We then model how the geographic spread of several acute pathogens with varying life histories could depend on country-wide connectivity fluctuations through the year. In all three countries, major national holidays are associated with shifts in the scope of travel. Within this broader pattern, the relative importance of particular routes also fluctuates over the course of the year, with increased travel from rural to urban communities after national holidays, for example. These changes in travel impact how fast communities are likely to be reached by an introduced pathogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Human Migration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Human Migration / trends
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Namibia / epidemiology
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Population / trends
  • Seasons*
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Travel / trends
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Population / trends