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The Effects of Heterogeneity in Pathogen Transmission on Disease Modeling Predictions

Speaker: Dr. Lauren White, Statistician Modeler, COVID Modeling Team, California Department of Public Health

Individual variation in infectiousness is generated by heterogeneities in the host, the pathogen, and the environment. However, many models of disease transmission, especially those designed for wildlife and livestock populations, do not typically allow for such variation in individual infectiousness. This talk will explore the effects of heterogeneity in individual infectiousness on disease modeling predictions within and across populations, following three different types of heterogeneity: (i) host heterogeneity resulting from individual differences in susceptibility, infectiousness, and behavioral contact rates, (ii) contact heterogeneity that arises within a population from underlying social systems and interactions; and (iii) spatial heterogeneity that arises from variation in host density as a function of resource quality and variable individual movement rates across a landscape. An improved understanding of the factors that lead to variability in individual infectiousness and the conditions that necessitate the inclusion of such variability in future disease models will be critical to address the growing global threats of zoonoses and emerging infectious diseases.