Elofsson A, Bryant P
medRxiv - (-) - [2020-11-17; online 2020-10-21]
Background When modelling the dispersion of an epidemic using R0, one only considers the average number of individuals each infected individual will infect. However, we know from extensive studies of social networks that there is significant variation in the number of connections and thus social contacts each individual has. Individuals with more social contacts are more likely to attract and spread infection. These individuals are likely the drivers of the epidemic, so-called superspreaders. When many superspreaders are immune, it becomes more difficult for the disease to spread, as the connectedness of the social network dramatically decreases. If one assumes all individuals being equally connected and thus as likely to spread disease as in a SIR model, this is not true. Methods To account for the impact of social network structure on epidemic development, we model the dispersion of SARS-CoV-2 on a dynamic preferential attachment graph which changes appearance proportional to observed mobility changes. We sample a serial interval distribution that determines the probability of dispersion for all infected nodes each day. We model the dispersion in different age groups using age-specific infection fatality rates. We vary the infection probabilities in different age groups and analyse the outcome. Results The impact of movement on network dynamics plays a crucial role in the spread of infections. We find that higher movement results in higher spread due to an increased probability of new connections being made within a social network. We show that saturation in the dispersion can be reached much earlier on a preferential attachment graph compared to spread on a random graph, which is more similar to estimations using R0. Conclusions We provide a novel method for modelling epidemics by using a dynamic network structure related to observed mobility changes. The social network structure plays a crucial role in epidemic development, something that is often overlooked.