Social network analysis is now widely used to investigate the dynamics of infectious disease spread from person to person. Vaccination dramatically disrupts the disease transmission process on a contact network, and indeed, sufficiently high vaccination rates can disrupt the process to such an extent that disease transmission on the network is effectively halted. Here, we build on mounting evidence that health behaviors - such as vaccination, and refusal thereof - can spread through social networks through a process of complex contagion that requires social reinforcement. Using network simulations that model both the health behavior and the infectious disease spread, we find that under otherwise identical conditions, the process by which the health behavior spreads has a very strong effect on disease outbreak dynamics. This variability in dynamics results from differences in the topology within susceptible communities that arise during the health behavior spreading process, which in turn depends on the topology of the overall social network. Our findings point to the importance of health behavior spread in predicting and controlling disease outbreaks.
Complex social contagion makes networks more vulnerable to disease outbreaks
Ellsworth Campbell, Marcel Salathé