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J R Soc Interface. 2013 Sep 11;10(88):20130643. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2013.0643. Print 2013 Nov 6.

Characterizing the dynamics of rubella relative to measles: the role of stochasticity.

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Theoretical Physics Division, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.


Rubella is a completely immunizing and mild infection in children. Understanding its behaviour is of considerable public health importance because of congenital rubella syndrome, which results from infection with rubella during early pregnancy and may entail a variety of birth defects. The recurrent dynamics of rubella are relatively poorly resolved, and appear to show considerable diversity globally. Here, we investigate the behaviour of a stochastic seasonally forced susceptible-infected-recovered model to characterize the determinants of these dynamics and illustrate patterns by comparison with measles. We perform a systematic analysis of spectra of stochastic fluctuations around stable attractors of the corresponding deterministic model and compare them with spectra from full stochastic simulations in large populations. This approach allows us to quantify the effects of demographic stochasticity and to give a coherent picture of measles and rubella dynamics, explaining essential differences in the recurrent patterns exhibited by these diseases. We discuss the implications of our findings in the context of vaccination and changing birth rates as well as the persistence of these two childhood infections.


childhood diseases; recurrent epidemics; rubella and measles; spectral analysis; stochasticity

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