Human behavioral responses play an important role in the impact of disease outbreaks and yet they are often overlooked in epidemiological models. Understanding to what extent behavioral changes determine the outcome of spreading epidemics is essential to design effective intervention policies. Here we explore, analytically, the interplay between the personal decision to protect oneself from infection and the spreading of an epidemic. We do so by coupling a decision game based on the perceived risk of infection with a Susceptible-Infected-Susceptible model. Interestingly, we find that the simple decision on whether to protect oneself is enough to modify the course of the epidemics, by generating sustained steady oscillations in the prevalence. We deem these oscillations detrimental, and propose two intervention policies aimed at modifying behavioral patterns to help alleviate them. Surprisingly, we find that pulsating campaigns, compared to continuous ones, are more effective in diminishing such oscillations.
Clara Granell Martorell is a researcher at Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona. She studies Complex Systems, mainly developing models for epidemic spreading, but also neuronal networks and community detection on Complex Networks.
Her background is in Computer Science and did her PhD with Prof. Alex Arenas and Prof. Sergio Gómez, in Tarragona. Since then, she’s had postdoctoral appointments at the Department of Applied Math at the University of North Carolina, and in the Department of Physics in Universitat de Barcelona, funded by a JSMF Postdoctoral Fellowship. After that, Dr. Granell got a Juan de la Cierva-Formación in the Department of Physics in Universidad de Zaragoza. Now she is back in Tarragona, her hometown, in a program called Beatriz de Galindo (Junior) that allows her to do research and teaching at the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.