The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "The illusion of personal health decisions for infectious disease management: disease spread in social contact networks"

Posted on 2023-03-16 - 11:00
Close contacts between individuals provide opportunities for the transmission of diseases, including COVID-19. Individuals take part in many different types of interactions, including those with classmates, co-workers and household members; the conglomeration of all of these interactions produces a complex social contact network interconnecting individuals across the population. Thus, while an individual might decide their own risk tolerance in response to a threat of infection, the consequences of such decisions are rarely so confined, propagating far beyond any one person. We asses the effect of different population-level risk-tolerance regimes, population structure in the form of age and household-size distributions, and different interaction types on epidemic spread in plausible human contact networks to gain insight into how contact network structure affects pathogen spread through a population. In particular, we find that behavioural changes by vulnerable individuals in isolation is insufficient to reduce those individuals’ infection risk and that population structure can have varied and counter-acting effects on epidemic outcomes. The relative impact of each interaction type was contingent on assumptions underlying contact network construction, stressing the importance of empirical validation. Taken together, these results promote a nuanced understanding of disease spread on contact networks, with implications for public health strategies.


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