Researchers at MIT have developed a new computer model that shows that it's not necessarily the busiest airports that are the biggest hubs for spreading viruses during a pandemic. The study looked at the 40 biggest airports in the United States, exploring how they effect the spread of disease in the early days of an outbreak, incorporating factors like where the airports are located, their waiting times, and how they're connected to airports in other cities. According to the study, airports in New York and Los Angeles topped the list, though Honolulu wasn't too far behind.
Even though the Hawaiian airport only receives 30 percent of the air traffic as its counterpart in New York City, researchers found that it was "nearly as influential in terms of contagion." Conversely, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta ranks first when it comes to number of flights, but sits in eighth in terms of spreading contagion. The model could eventually be used to help distribute vaccines more effectively when an outbreak does occur.