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Study: Rural epidemics most dangerous

MANHATTAN, Kan., June 8 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests an infectious disease striking a rural area might be more disastrous than an epidemic in a large metropolitan area.

Kansas State University Associate Professor Caterina Scoglio and colleagues sought to identify optimal strategies to forecast and control disease outbreaks in rural areas.

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"What are used as mitigation strategies in cities will not be so effective in rural areas," Scoglio said. "In cities, people have a lot of informal contact with one another, but looser ties."

She said that means during an epidemic urban residents are less likely to interact with sick neighbors and, therefore, are less likely to spread a disease. But the scientists found 35 percent of rural residents said they would be willing to visit other people in the community during a major epidemic.

"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," Associate Professor Todd Easton, one of the researchers, said.

Easton's group ran a computer simulation on a hypothetical disease outbreak in a rural town in which on Day 1 everyone is healthy. By Day 20, they found everyone would have contracted the disease.

The research is to appear in multiple journals.

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