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E. Coli Outbreaks and Information Diffusion

In the past week, there have been widespread news reports urging everyone to avoid romaine lettuce at all costs. A recent E. Coli outbreak has left 43 people ill in 11 different states scattered around the country. I found this really interesting because although the outbreak has been found to center in Central California, the entirety of the United States was warned to throw away their lettuce. This epidemic perfectly follows the model we used in class, where the epidemic only really spreads when contaminated lettuce is ingested by people. While the chances of transmission from person to person are low, we can see how this spread so quickly because of the high probability that an interaction with lettuce leads to infection. This makes the network really simple to analyze as there is no second level of transmission, just the initial contact to cause infection.

Additionally, we can see the high amount of lettuce that was contaminated and how the current market structure in the United States led to the rapid spread. The outbreak had effects in multiple states and was difficult to trace to one particular place. Nowadays, we send our crops all over the country to essentially combat the weather and provide food for the entire country. This can become quite complicated when it comes to epidemics and can lead to more drastic measures needed. We can see this as we observe that this news halted the entire country and not just the place where the contamination started. Although we now have media to support these measures, when it comes to a more dangerous epidemic, the way that the world has become more inter-connected can pose even more of a threat to our society and we need to take more drastic measures.


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