From individuals to epidemics

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131 Scopus citations


Heterogeneous mixing fundamentally changes the dynamics of infectious diseases; finding ways to incorporate it into models represents a critical challenge. Phenomenological approaches are deficient in their lack of attention to underlying processes; individual-based models, on the other hand, may obscure the essential interactions in a sea of detail. The challenge then is to find ways to bridge these levels of description, starting from individual-based models and deriving macroscopic descriptions from them that retain essential detail, and filter out the rest. In this paper, attempts to achieve this transformation are described for a class of models where non-random mixing arises from the spatial localization of interactions. In general, the epidemic threshold is found to be larger owing to spatial localization than for a homogeneously mixing population. An improved estimate of the dynamics is developed by the use of moment equations, and a simple estimate of the threshold in terms of a 'dyad heuristic'. For more general models in which local infection is not described by mass action, the connection with related partial differential equations is investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1615-1621
Number of pages7
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1347
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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