Epidemiology and Infection

Methods and modelling

Close encounters of the infectious kind: methods to measure social mixing behaviour

J. M. READa1 c1, W. J. EDMUNDSa2, S. RILEYa3, J. LESSLERa4 and D. A. T. CUMMINGSa4

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, UK

a2 Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, UK

a3 MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK

a4 Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

SUMMARY

A central tenet of close-contact or respiratory infection epidemiology is that infection patterns within human populations are related to underlying patterns of social interaction. Until recently, few researchers had attempted to quantify potentially infectious encounters made between people. Now, however, several studies have quantified social mixing behaviour, using a variety of methods. Here, we review the methodologies employed, suggest other appropriate methods and technologies, and outline future research challenges for this rapidly advancing field of research.

(Received December 07 2011)

(Revised March 08 2012)

(Accepted April 10 2012)

(Online publication June 12 2012)

Key words

  • Contact diary;
  • infectious disease control;
  • mathematical modelling;
  • proximity;
  • social mixing;
  • social network;
  • transmission

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: Dr J. M. Read, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, Leahurst Campus, University of Liverpool, CH64 7TE, UK. (Email: jonread@liverpool.ac.uk)

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