Disease risk mitigation: The equivalence of two selective mixing strategies on aggregate contact patterns and resulting epidemic spread

Benjamin R. Morin, Charles Perrings, Simon Asher Levin, Ann Kinzig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The personal choices affecting the transmission of infectious diseases include the number of contacts an individual makes, and the risk-characteristics of those contacts. We consider whether these different choices have distinct implications for the course of an epidemic. We also consider whether choosing contact mitigation (how much to mix) and affinity mitigation (with whom to mix) strategies together has different epidemiological effects than choosing each separately. We use a set of differential equation compartmental models of the spread of disease, coupled with a model of selective mixing. We assess the consequences of varying contact or affinity mitigation as a response to disease risk. We do this by comparing disease incidence and dynamics under varying contact volume, contact type, and both combined across several different disease models. Specifically, we construct a change of variables that allows one to transition from contact mitigation to affinity mitigation, and vice versa. In the absence of asymptomatic infection we find no difference in the epidemiological impacts of the two forms of disease risk mitigation. Furthermore, since models that include both mitigation strategies are underdetermined, varying both results in no outcome that could not be reached by choosing either separately. Which strategy is actually chosen then depends not on their epidemiological consequences, but on the relative cost of reducing contact volume versus altering contact type. Although there is no fundamental epidemiological difference between the two forms of mitigation, the social cost of alternative strategies can be very different. From a social perspective, therefore, whether one strategy should be promoted over another depends on economic not epidemiological factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-270
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Dec 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Applied Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation


  • Asymptomatic infection
  • Latent infection


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