Top 10 US airports for spreading disease

Just when you thought the coughing or sneezing passenger next to you is spreading the flu bug, a recent survey reveals that instead, airports could be hotbeds for the spread of disease.

The study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) looked at 40 of the largest airports in the US and tried to figure out which ones would most likely be the biggest contagions in the event of an outbreak.

They factored in passengers' travel patterns, the airports' geographic locations, interactions between airports and even passenger travel patterns and waiting times to come up with the results in the published journal PLoS One last week.

US's sixth busiest airport, John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, came in at no. 1 spot. The airport has eight terminals and handled about 47 million passengers in 2011.

But what was surprising about the survey was that an airport's ranking was not necessarily tied to its size or busyness.

For example, Honolulu International Airport ranked third even though it carries only 30 per cent as much traffic as JFK, according to a CNN report.

The researchers attributed that to Honolulu's location within the air traffic network as it is located in the Pacific Ocean and has many flight connections to distant, large, and well-connected hubs.

While Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport ranks first in terms of passenger numbers according to data from Airports Council International (ACI), it was eighth on the list of potential disease spreaders. US fourth busiest airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, ranked 10th.

Here are 10 US airports that are most likely to spread disease.

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