SYMP 18-5 - Contact networks and the spread of disease: The epidemiological consequences of individual variation in movement and behavior

Thursday, August 11, 2011: 9:45 AM
Ballroom E, Austin Convention Center
Lauren Ancel Meyers, Section of Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Mathematics has long been an important tool for understanding and controlling the spread of infectious diseases in human and wildlife populations. I will first present an overview of contact network epidemiology, a relatively new approach that applies bond percolation on random graphs to model the spread of infectious disease through heterogeneous populations. Using behavioral data collected by the Serengeti Lion Project, I will then illustrate how these methods can be used to investigate the epidemiological structure of a wildlife population.


Contact network epidemiology offers an intuitive and versatile modeling framework for investigating the impacts of individual-level variation in behavior and movement patterns on infectious disease dynamics. In the case of Serengeti Lions, we have found that, despite their extreme territoriality, prides have sufficiently frequent inter-pride encounters to sustain epidemics of even moderately transmissible diseases, and, consequently, nomadic lions may play relatively minor roles in disease transmission. However, the spatiotemporal dynamics of a devastating 1994 epidemic of Canine Distemper Virus suggest that this particular outbreak was not propagated by lion-to-lion transmission alone, but rather fueled by repeated introductions from other carnivore species in the ecosystem.

Copyright © . All rights reserved.
Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.