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Applying Network Theory to Epidemics: Control Measures for Outbreaks of Mycoplasma pneumoniae


  • Lauren W. Ancel
  • M. E. J. Newman
  • Michael Martin
  • Stephanie Schrag


Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a major cause of bacterial pneumonia in the United States. Outbreaks of illness due to mycoplasma commonly occur in closed or semi-closed communities. These outbreaks are difficult to contain due to delays in outbreak detection, the long incubation period of the bacterium, and an incomplete understanding of the effectiveness of infection control strategies. This article introduces a novel mathematical approach to studying the spread and control of a communicable infection such as mycoplasma, in a closed community. The model explicitly captures the patterns of interactions among patients and caregivers in an institution with multiple wards. Analysis of this contact network predicts that despite the relatively low prevalence of mycoplasma pneumonia found among caregivers, the patterns of caregiver activity and the extent to which they are protected against infection may be fundamental to the control and prevention of mycoplasma outbreaks.

Suggested Citation

  • Lauren W. Ancel & M. E. J. Newman & Michael Martin & Stephanie Schrag, 2001. "Applying Network Theory to Epidemics: Control Measures for Outbreaks of Mycoplasma pneumoniae," Working Papers 01-12-078, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-12-078

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    Epidemiology; models; theoretical; network; respiratory tract infections; Mycoplasma pneumoniae;

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