Controlling disease spread on networks with incomplete knowledge

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2004 Dec;70(6 Pt 2):066145. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.70.066145. Epub 2004 Dec 28.

Abstract

Models for control of highly infectious diseases on local, small-world, and scale-free networks are considered, with only partial information accessible about the status of individuals and their connections. We consider a case when individuals can be infectious before showing symptoms and thus before detection. For small to moderately severe incidence of infection with a small number of nonlocal links, it is possible to control disease spread by using purely local methods applied in a neighborhood centered around a detected infectious individual. There exists an optimal radius for such a control neighborhood leading to the lowest severity of the epidemic in terms of economic costs associated with disease and treatment. The efficiency of a local control strategy is very sensitive to the choice of the radius. Below the optimal radius, the local strategy is unsuccessful; the disease spreads throughout the system, necessitating treatment of the whole population. At the other extreme, a strategy involving a neighborhood that is too large controls the disease but is wasteful of resources. It is not possible to stop an epidemic on scale-free networks by preventive actions, unless a large proportion of the population is treated.