Dynamics of epidemics

The increase in cases in an epidemic has given rise to a measure called the basic reproductive rate. This measures the average number of subsequent cases of an infection from a single case in an unlimited, wholly susceptible population. For example, if one case gave rise to two and these two to four, etc., as illustrated in Fig. 2.6, the basic reproductive rate would be 2. This is the most extreme situation. In reality, the epidemic is modified by immunity or the population limited by people having already become infected; therefore, such a rapid increase does not occur. If the basic reproductive rate is less than 1, as illustrated in Fig. 2.7, the epidemic will not take off. The importance of this concept is in control, whereby if the basic reproductive rate can be reduced below 1, then the disease will die out.

The basic reproductive rate has been used in mathematical models of disease, particularly for malaria and filariasis.

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