When you’re Sick, Please Stay at Home – Making Sense of Spreading Phenomena using Human Contact Data

Benjamin F. Maier

PhD Student
Robert Koch Institute

Going to work even though you are sick is still very common these days. Despite being aware of the risk of overstraining the body or infecting your colleagues, many of us still turn to medication that allows us to perform relatively well at work during the day, but often leaving us even more exhausted in the evening. While deciding to work when you’re sick may be very comprehensible when looking at the individual case, it’s still unreasonable.

Scientists have been studying spreading mechanisms of epidemic diseases for almost a century and obtained concise results for model systems where everybody is always in contact with everybody else. As the reality of such systems can be doubted, we give a broad overview on how exploring the temporal, social and spatial nature of human contacts yields better descriptions and surprising effects, such as accelerated spreading on social networks, smart vaccination strategies, and ways to predict when a pandemic disease will hit your home town. We show how modern studies record actual face-to-face contact networks and introduce a new model for the systematic search for outbreak mitigation strategies, yielding a simple result: Even the most infectious disease can be killed if you’d just stay at home.

The event took place on April 27th, 2018.

Find Benjamin’s slides on SlideShare.

Benjamin F. Maier
PhD Student
Robert Koch Institute

Benjamin F. Maier is a final-year PhD student at the Robert Koch Institute and a freelance data scientist. Making use of his background in physics, he’s conducting research on modeling contacts in human systems to find new ways for the mitigation of epidemic outbreaks.