Phone Infections

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 1023-1024
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174658

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In 1854, John Snow identified a water pump as the source of the cholera outbreak affecting the Soho district of London. This transformed the British physician into a public health giant, whose story is still celebrated in medical and public health history books. The weapon in his fight against cholera was a map of London on which he marked the residence of the individuals that had been infected by the disease. This enabled him to identify the Broad Street pump as the outbreak's source, allowing him to stop cholera proliferation in London. Snow understood the spontaneous nature of epidemics and is regarded as a founder of modern epidemiology (1). Following in his footsteps, we understand today that the spread of infectious diseases follows reproducible patterns, whether they occur in the narrow streets of 19th-century London or along the digital highways of the 21st century. This is because diseases spread via networks of connections among individuals. On page 1071 of this issue, Wang et al. analyze the temporal and spatial spreading patterns of a new kind of virus—one that can spread through mobile phone networks (2).