Oscillatory phenomena in a model of infectious diseases

Zvi Grossman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oscillations of the number of cases around an average endemic level are common in several infectious diseases. In this paper we study simple deterministic models, where the oscillations arise either solely from periodically varying contact rates or from the combined effect of large initial perturbation, small periodic variation of the contact rate, and the destabilizing nature of infectious and latent periods when described as time delays. The main results are: (a) For a model with a periodically varying contact rate and a recovery rate, a threshold amplitude of variation is found by numerical and analytic methods at which 2-year subharmonic resonance appears. (b) Approximate analytic relationships are derived for the amplitude and phase of the forced 1-year oscillations below this threshold and for the 2-year oscillations above it—in terms of the reproduction rate of the infection. (c) Similar calculations are performed when the recovery rate is replaced by a fixed infectious period represented by a pure time delay. The threshold amplitude of variation in the contact rate is found here to be smaller than in the recovery rate model. (d) A model with a fixed infectious period and a constant contact rate is considered. The nontrivial steady state is shown to be locally stable for the parameter range of interest. However, the ratio of the imaginary to real parts of the eigenvalues in the characteristic equation is increased as compared to the corresponding model with a recovery rate. (e) For the model with a fixed infectious period and a constant contact rate an approximation method indicates consistency in a certain range of contact rates with the existence of an unstable periodic solution about the locally stable steady state. The actual existence of such a solution is not verified. The interpretation is that the destabilizing effect of the introduction of a pure delay into the model becomes more significant as the distance in the variables space from the endemic steady state is increased. (f) For a fixed infectious period and very small subthreshold variation in the contact rate, two different types of solutions are found numerically: yearly small-amplitude oscillations about an endemic average and large-amplitude oscillations of a subharmonic period. The pattern seen depends on the initial conditions. For a sufficiently large initial deviation from the endemic level even very small seasonal variations lead to regular recurrent outbreaks of the disease. The effect of latent periods and of changing the form of the interaction are also considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-243
Number of pages40
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes


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