Predicting the outbreak of epidemics using a network-based approach


Predicting the outbreak of epidemics using a network-based approach

Saikat Das, Indranil Bose, and Uttam Kumar Sarkar

Journal Articles | European Journal of Operational Research

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The spread of epidemics is a common societal problem across the world. Can operational research be used to predict such outbreaks? While equation-based approaches are used to model the trajectory of epidemics, can a network-based approach also be used? This paper presents an innovative application of epidemic modelling through the design of both approaches and compares between the two. The network-based approach proposed in this paper allows implementing heterogeneity at the level of individuals and incorporates flexibility in the variety of situations the model can be applied to. In contrast to the equation-based approach, the network-based approach can address the role of individual differences, network properties, and patterns of social contacts responsible for the spread of epidemics but are much more complex to implement. In this paper, we simulated the spread of infection at the beginning of Covid-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) using both approaches. The results are showcased using empirical data for eight countries. Sophisticated measures, including partial curve mapping, are used to compare the simulated results with the actual number of infections. We find that the plots generated by the network-based approach match the empirical data better than the equation-based approach. While both approaches can be used to predict the spread of infections, we conclusively show that the proposed network-based approach is better suited with its ability to model the spread of epidemics at the level of an individual. Hence, this can be a model of choice for epidemiologists who are interested to model the spread of an epidemic.