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Network epidemiology modeling of dynamic human behaviors for controlling hospital acquired diseases



The SARS epidemic in 2003 was traced back to an outbreak in a hospital in Hong Kong. In 2013, a Frenchman died of a SARS-like virus. He got infected while he was sharing a common hospital room with an infective. To ensure public health, we need a further understanding of human interaction dynamics in a hospital environment and a deeper investigation of nosocomial infections for effective and efficient control strategies.

This research leverages our recent work in the active RFID traceability technologies. Our system is developed with the capability to determine the indoor location of an active tag. This system was installed inside two wards (11A & 11C) of Prince of Wales Hospital for a 4-month formal pilot study with patient and medical staff participation to improve patient care.

Based on the user feedbacks collected, we find that time and space play an important role in shaping human behaviors, inferring human interactions, and influencing epidemic spread of infectious diseases in a healthcare institute. Our research aims at enhancing the capability of tracking the movement of people and tracing the infection of a hospital-acquired disease for each individual in order to monitor and control the epidemic spread of nosocomial infections. To achieve this goal, we plan to conduct the following research activities:

  1. network models of dynamic human behaviors for an enhanced spatial-temporal analysis to determine human interaction patterns and contacts in a relatively close community,
  2. epidemic models to track and trace nosocomial infections based on the time-varying contact networks to increase our understanding of transmission mechanisms in hospital,
  3. traceability analysis of tracking the mobility and infection for each individual to identify risk behaviors by linking both the network and epidemic models,
  4. effective and efficient control strategies against epidemic spread under different scenarios to take advantage of the network structure and disease dynamics.

This research is unique. First, since our focus is on the movement of people, our methods are very different from those used to track products in a supply chain. Further, we plan to conduct the traceability analysis of the dynamic interactions and infections of people at individual level for network epidemiology study in hospital. This differs from either the popular modeling of a static network or the traditional epidemiology study for a large region. Finally, many spatial-temporal analyses and epidemiology models are developed for outdoor applications while this work deals with indoor activities.


Project In-charge:    Prof. C.H. Cheng

Duration:  Jan 2015 – Dec 2017

Sponsor(s):   Hong Kong Research Grant Council, UGC