Contact switching as a control strategy for epidemic outbreaks

S. Risau-Gusman and D.H. Zanette

Journal of Theoretical Biology 257(1), 52-60, 2009.

We study the effects of switching social contacts as a strategy to control epidemic outbreaks. Connections between susceptible and infective individuals can be broken by either individual, and then reconnected to a randomly chosen member of the population. It is assumed that the reconnecting individual has no previous information on the epidemiological condition of the new contact. We show that reconnection can completely suppress the disease, both by continuous and discontinuous transitions between the endemic and the infection-free states. For diseases with an asymptomatic phase, we analyze the conditions for the suppression of the disease, and show that—even when these conditions are not met—the increase of the endemic infection level is usually rather small. We conclude that, within some simple epidemiological models, contact switching is a quite robust and effective control strategy. This suggests that it may also be an efficient method in more complex situations.

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