Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Closer personal ties in rural towns may make them more vulnerable to epidemics, study suggests

The friendly nature of rural towns could be their downfall in an epidemic, a recent study at Kansas State University suggests. It found that found 35 percent of rural residents said they would be willing to visit other people in the community during a major epidemic -- making sociability a liability in the case of spreading germs, United Press International reports.

Researcher Todd Easton ran a computer simulation of a hypothetical disease outbreak and found that by Day 20, everyone would have contracted the disease. "In a rural setting, you're maybe more likely to watch out for all of your neighbors, and your neighbors may also be your uncles, aunts and other family members," he said.

Another KSU professor, Caterina Scoglio, agrees and says managing epidemics in rural areas requires different tactics than in cities and suburbs. "What are used as mitigation strategies in cities will not be so effective in rural areas," she said. "In cities, people have a lot of informal contact with one another, but looser ties." (Read more)

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