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J Theor Biol. 2004 Jan 21;226(2):125-41.

Effects of dispersal mechanisms on spatio-temporal development of epidemics.

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Department of Plant Sciences, The University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK.


The nature of pathogen transport mechanisms strongly determines the spatial pattern of disease and, through this, the dynamics and persistence of epidemics in plant populations. Up to recently, the range of possible mechanisms or interactions assumed by epidemic models has been limited: either independent of the location of individuals (mean-field models) or restricted to local contacts (between nearest neighbours or decaying exponentially with distance). Real dispersal processes are likely to lie between these two extremes, and many are well described by long-tailed contact kernels such as power laws. We investigate the effect of different spatial dispersal mechanisms on the spatio-temporal spread of disease epidemics by simulating a stochastic Susceptible-infective model motivated by previous data analyses. Both long-term stationary behaviour (in the presence of a control or recovery process) and transient behaviour (which varies widely within and between epidemics) are examined. We demonstrate the relationship between epidemic size and disease pattern (characterized by spatial autocorrelation), and its dependence on dispersal and infectivity parameters. Special attention is given to boundary effects, which can decrease disease levels significantly relative to standard, periodic geometries in cases of long-distance dispersal. We propose and test a definition of transient duration which captures the dependence of transients on dispersal mechanisms. We outline an analytical approach that represents the behaviour of the spatially-explicit model, and use it to prove that the epidemic size is predicted exactly by the mean-field model (in the limit of an infinite system) when dispersal is sufficiently long ranged (i.e. when the power-law exponent a</=2).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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