Human Behavior in Epidemic Modelling

Poletti, Piero (2010) Human Behavior in Epidemic Modelling. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Mathematical models represent a powerful tool for investigating the dynamics of human infection diseases, providing useful predictions about the spread of a disease and the effectiveness of possible control measures. One of the central aspects to understand the dynamics of human infection is the heterogeneity in behavioral patters adopted by the host population. Beyond control measures imposed by public authorities, human behavioral changes can be triggered by uncoordinated responses driven by the diffusion of fear in the general population or by the risk perception. In order to assess how and when behavioral changes can affect the spread of an epidemic, spontaneous social distancing - e.g. produced by avoiding crowded environments, using face masks or limiting travels - is investigated. Moreover, in order to assess whether vaccine preventable diseases can be eliminated through not compulsory vaccination programs, vaccination choices are investigated as well. The proposed models are based on an evolutionary game theory framework. Considering dynamical games allows explicitly modeling the coupled dynamics of disease transmission and human behavioral changes. Specifically, the information diffusion is modeled through an imitation process in which the convenience of different behaviors depends on the perceived risk of infection and vaccine side effects. The proposed models allow the investigation of the effects of misperception of risks induced by partial, delayed or incorrect information (either concerning the state of the epidemic or vaccine side effects) as well. The performed investigation highlights that a small reduction in the number of potentially infectious contacts in response to an epidemic and an initial misperception of the risk of infection can remarkably affect the spread of infection. On the other hand, the analysis of vaccination choices showed that concerns about proclaimed risks of vaccine side effects can result in widespread refusal of vaccination which in turn leads to drops in vaccine uptake and suboptimal vaccination coverage.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Mathematics
Subjects:Area 01 - Scienze matematiche e informatiche > MAT/05 ANALISI MATEMATICA
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