In the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, and on the basis of the Theory of Dynamical Systems, we propose a simple theoretical approach for the expansion of contagious diseases, with a particular focus on viral respiratory tracts. The infection develops through contacts between contagious and exposed people, with a rate proportional to the number of contagious and of non-immune individuals, to contact duration and turnover, inversely proportional to the efficiency of protection measures, and balanced by the average individual recovery response. The obvious initial exponential increase is readily hindered by the growing recovery rate, and also by the size reduction of the exposed population. The system converges towards a stable attractor whose value is expressed in terms of the "reproductive rate" R0, depending on contamination and recovery factors. Various properties of the attractor are examined, and particularly its relations with R0. Decreasing this ratio below a critical value leads to a tipping threshold beyond which the epidemic is over. By contrast, significant values of the above ratio may bring the system through a bifurcating hierarchy of stable cycles up to a chaotic behaviour.
Keywords: COVID-19; attractor; chaos; contamination kinetics; critical state; dynamical systems; epidemic; herd immunity; reproductive rate; stable cycle.