Spurious self-feedback of mean-field predictions inflates infection curves

Claudia Merger, Jasper Albers, Carsten Honerkamp, Moritz Helias
Condensed Matter, Disordered Systems and Neural Networks, Disordered Systems and Neural Networks (cond-mat.dis-nn), Statistical Mechanics (cond-mat.stat-mech)
2023-12-22 00:00:00
The susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) model and its variants form the foundation of our understanding of the spread of diseases. Here, each agent can be in one of three states (susceptible, infected, or recovered), and transitions between these states follow a stochastic process. The probability of an agent becoming infected depends on the number of its infected neighbors, hence all agents are correlated. A common mean-field theory of the same stochastic process however, assumes that the agents are statistically independent. This leads to a self-feedback effect in the approximation: when an agent infects its neighbors, this infection may subsequently travel back to the original agent at a later time, leading to a self-infection of the agent which is not present in the underlying stochastic process. We here compute the first order correction to the mean-field assumption, which takes fluctuations up to second order in the interaction strength into account. We find that it cancels the self-feedback effect, leading to smaller infection rates. In the SIR model and in the SIRS model, the correction significantly improves predictions. In particular, it captures how sparsity dampens the spread of the disease: this indicates that reducing the number of contacts is more effective than predicted by mean-field models.
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