A new study has found that a scientific system, originally designed to rapidly evaluate the world's air traffic patterns, can accurately predict how the H1N1 virus would spread around the world.
The research has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
St. Michael's Hospital scientist and infectious disease physician Dr. Kamran Khan and colleagues analyzed the flight itineraries of the more than 2.3 million passengers departing Mexico on commercial flights during the months of March and April to predict the spread of H1N1.
The findings show the international destinations of air travelers leaving Mexico were strongly associated with confirmed importations of the H1N1 virus around the world.
"The relationship between air travel and the spread of H1N1 is intuitive," said Dr. Khan.
"However, for the first time, we can quickly integrate information about worldwide air traffic patterns with information about global infectious disease threats. What this means is that cities and countries around the world can now respond to news of a threat earlier and more intelligently than ever before," the expert added.
The system is known as The BIO.DIASPORA Project.
It was created in response to the Toronto SARS crisis in 2003 to better understand the global airline transportation network and its relationship to the spread of emerging infectious diseases.
"While it is generally understood that air travel can transport infectious diseases around the world, the BIO.DIASPORA Project, has for the first time, provided a very accurate picture of not only where diseases will travel, but how often and when," said Dr. Michael Gardam, director of infectious diseases prevention and control for the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.