Stochastic epidemics in dynamic populations: quasi-stationarity and extinction
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Empirical evidence shows that childhood diseases persist in large communities whereas in smaller communities the epidemic goes extinct (and is later reintroduced by immigration). The present paper treats a stochastic model describing the spread of an infectious disease giving life-long immunity, in a community where individuals die and new individuals are born. The time to extinction of the disease starting in quasi-stationarity (conditional on non-extinction) is exponentially distributed. As the population size grows the epidemic process converges to a diffusion process. Properties of the limiting diffusion are used to obtain an approximate expression for τ, the mean-parameter in the exponential distribution of the time to extinction for the finite population. The expression is used to study how τ depends on the community size but also on certain properties of the disease/community: the basic reproduction number and the means and variances of the latency period, infectious period and life-length. Effects of introducing a vaccination program are also discussed as is the notion of the critical community size, defined as the size which distinguishes between the two qualitatively different behaviours.
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