Epidemic mitigation via awareness propagation in communication networks: The role of time scales

Huijuan Wang, Chuyi Chen, Bo Qu, Daqing Li, Shlomo Havlin

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13 Scopus citations


The participation of individuals in multi-layer networks allows for feedback between network layers, opening new possibilities to mitigate epidemic spreading. For instance, the spread of a biological disease such as Ebola in a physical contact network may trigger the propagation of the information related to this disease in a communication network, e.g. an online social network. The information propagated in the communication network may increase the awareness of some individuals, resulting in them avoiding contact with their infected neighbors in the physical contact network, which might protect the population from the infection. In this work, we aim to understand how the time scale γ of the information propagation (speed that information is spread and forgotten) in the communication network relative to that of the epidemic spread (speed that an epidemic is spread and cured) in the physical contact network influences such mitigation using awareness information. We begin by proposing a model of the interaction between information propagation and epidemic spread, taking into account the relative time scale γ. We analytically derive the average fraction of infected nodes in the meta-stable state for this model (i) by developing an individual-based mean-field approximation (IBMFA) method and (ii) by extending the microscopic Markov chain approach (MMCA). We show that when the time scale γ of the information spread relative to the epidemic spread is large, our IBMFA approximation is better compared to MMCA near the epidemic threshold, whereas MMCA performs better when the prevalence of the epidemic is high. Furthermore, we find that an optimal mitigation exists that leads to a minimal fraction of infected nodes. The optimal mitigation is achieved at a non-trivial relative time scale γ, which depends on the rate at which an infected individual becomes aware. Contrary to our intuition, information spread too fast in the communication network could reduce the mitigation effect. Finally, our finding has been validated in the real-world two-layer network obtained from the location-based social network Brightkite.

Original languageEnglish
Article number073039
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SH is grateful for the support of the Israel Science Foundation, ONR and DTRA, the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation-National Science Foundation Grant 2015781, the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology with the support of the Italy Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan-Israel Government. DL is grateful for the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no.61672080).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.


  • epidemic mitigation
  • epidemic spreading
  • interacting processes
  • multi-layer networks
  • time scale


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