The modelling of contact processes between hosts is of key importance in epidemiology. Current studies have mainly focused on networks with stationary structures, although we know these structures to be dynamic with continuous appearance and disappearance of links over time. In the case of moving individuals, the contact network cannot be established. Individual-based models (IBMs) can simulate the individual behaviours involved in the contact process. However, with very large populations, they can be hard to simulate and study due to the computational costs. We use the moment approximation (MA) method to approximate a stochastic IBM with an aggregated deterministic model. We illustrate the method with an application in animal epidemiology: the spread of the highly pathogenic virus H5N1 of avian influenza in a poultry flock. The MA method is explained in a didactic way so that it can be reused and extended. We compare the simulation results of three models: 1. an IBM, 2. a MA, and 3. a mean-field (MF). The results show a close agreement between the MA model and the IBM. They highlight the importance for the models to capture the displacement behaviours and the contact processes in the study of disease spread. We also illustrate an original way of using different models of the same system to learn more about the system itself, and about the representation we build of it.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 18-December-2012
Author(s): Bonté B., Mathias J., Duboz R.