APS tip sheet: Predicting epidemics’ speed

New analysis predicts how quickly an epidemic could spread globally

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Credit: Moore & Rogers, Physical Review Letters (2020)

As the coronavirus outbreak expands, public health officials are trying to anticipate its trajectory and the rate at which it will travel. Now, scientists have created a new analysis able to predict the speed of epidemics in a network. By employing a simple approach commonly used to monitor how messages pass through communication networks, Moore and Rogers were able to theoretically predict contagion speeds in different networks, down to individual nodes. Their model also provides a way to assess each node’s likelihood of being infected by a certain particular time in the epidemic. Currently, the theoretical analysis operates in a tree-like contagion network. However, the scientists demonstrate how it can be applied to more complex and widespread contagion networks.

Predicting the speed of epidemics spreading on networks

Sam Moore and Tim Rogers

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