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Distribution Theory, Stochastic Processes And Infectious Disease Modelling

P. Yan
Published 2008 · Computer Science

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The occurrence of a major outbreak, the shape of the epidemic curves, as well as the final sizes of outbreaks, are realizations of some stochastic events with some probability distributions. These distributions are manifested through some stochastic mechanisms. This chapter divides a typical outbreak in a closed population into two phases, the initial phase and beyond the initial phase. For the initial phase, this chapter addresses several aspects: the invasion (i.e. the risk of a large outbreak); quantities associated with a small outbreak; and characteristics of a large outbreak. In a large outbreak beyond the initial phase, the focus is on its final size. After a review of distribution theories and stochastic processes, this chapter separately addresses each of these issues by asking questions such as: Are the latent period and/or the infectious period distributions playing any role? What is the role of the contact process for this issue? Is the basic reproduction number R 0 sufficient to address this issue? How many stochastic mechanisms may manifest observations that may resemble a power-law distribution, and how much detail is really needed to address this specific issue? etc. This chapter uses distribution theory and stochastic processes to capture the agent–host–environment interface during an outbreak of an infectious disease. With different phases of an outbreak and special issues in mind, modellers need to choose which detailed aspects of the distributions and the stochastic mechanisms need to be included, and which detailed aspects need to be ignored. With these discussions, this chapter provides some syntheses for the concepts and models discussed in some proceeding chapters, as well as some food for thought for following chapters on case studies.
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