Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 69, Issue 8, pp 2711–2722 | Cite as

Optimal Timing of Disease Transmission in an Age-Structured Population

  • Timothy C. Reluga
  • Jan Medlock
  • Eric Poolman
  • Alison P. Galvani
Original Article


It is a common medical folk-practice for parents to encourage their children to contract certain infectious diseases while they are young. This folk-practice is controversial, in part, because it contradicts the long-term public health goal of minimizing disease incidence. We study an epidemiological model of infectious disease in an age-structured population where virulence is age-dependent and show that, in some cases, the optimal behavior will increase disease transmission. This provides a rigorous justification of the concept of “endemic stability,” and demonstrates that folk-practices may have been historically justified.


Age-dependent virulence Population games Optimal behavior 


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Reluga
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Medlock
    • 1
  • Eric Poolman
    • 1
  • Alison P. Galvani
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Public HealthYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.MS-K710, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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