Cities and villages: Infection hierarchies in a measles metapopulation

B. T. Grenfell, B. M. Bolker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

95 Scopus citations


An important issue in the dynamics of directly transmitted microparasites is the relationship between infection probability and host density. We use models and extensive spatio-temporal data for the incidence of measles to examine evidence for spatial heterogeneity in transmission probability, in terms of urban-rural hierarchies in infection rate. Pre-vaccination measles data for England and Wales show strong evidence for urban-rural heterogeneities in infection rate - the proportion of urban cases rises significantly before major epidemics. The model shows that this effect is consistent with a higher infection rate in large cities, though small towns have epidemic characteristics intermediate between town and country. Surprisingly, urban and rural areas of the same population size have a similar propensity for local extinction of infection. A spatial map of urban-rural correlations reveals complex regional patterns of synchronization of towns and cities. The hierarchical heterogeneities in infection persist into the vaccine era; their implications for disease persistence and control are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalEcology letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Correlation
  • Epidemiology
  • Heterogeneity
  • Infection dynamics
  • Measles
  • Metapopulation
  • Microparasite
  • Vaccination

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