Schools as vectors of infectious disease transmission during the 1918 influenza pandemic

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Great Lakes Research Center; College of Sciences and Arts


In this paper we utilize a combination of national microdata from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) with local population and health microdata, spatialized to the household level, and employ an historical GIS (HGIS) to follow infectious disease transmission between public school children in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Microdata are data at the finest, non-aggregated level of precision. We illustrate three important advantages of using historical microdata within an HGIS framework: contextualization of data within their period-accurate space—time, avoidance of the ecological fallacy, and the ability to move freely between micro and macro scales. We demonstrate the potential for studying historic pandemics using historical microdata by doing a spatiotemporal analysis following infectious respiratory disease through three schools from April to June 1918.

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