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Background: Human travel patterns play an important role in infectious disease epidemiology and ecology. Movement into geographic spaces with high transmission can lead to increased risk of acquiring infections. Pathogens can also be distributed across the landscape via human travel. Most fine scale studies of human travel patterns have been done in urban settings in wealthy nations. Research into human travel patterns in rural areas of low- and middle-income nations are useful for understanding the human components of epidemiological systems for malaria or other diseases of the rural poor. The goal of this research was to assess the feasibility of using GPS loggers to empirically measure human travel patterns in this setting, as well as to quantify differing travel patterns by age, gender, and seasonality among study participants. Methods: In this pilot study we recruited 50 rural villagers from along the Myanmar-Thailand border to carry GPS loggers for the duration of a year. The GPS loggers were programmed to take a time-stamped reading every 30 minutes. We calculated daily movement ranges and multi-day trips by age and gender. We incorporated remote sensing data to assess patterns of days and nights spent in forested or farm areas, also by age and gender. Results: Our study showed that it is feasible to use GPS devices to measure travel patterns, though we had difficulty recruiting women and management of the project was relatively intensive. We found that older adults traveled farther distances than younger adults and adult males spent more nights in farms or forests. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that further work along these lines would be feasible in this region. Furthermore, the results from this study are useful for individual-based models of disease transmission and land use.

Original publication





Wellcome Open Res

Publication Date





Thailand-Myanmar border, disease ecology, farms, forests, human ecology, human movement, infectious disease epidemiology