Royal Society Publishing

Population dynamic interference among childhood diseases

P. Rohani , D. J. Earn , B. Finkenstädt , B. T. Grenfell


Epidemiologists usually study the interaction between a host population and one parasitic infection. However, different parasite species effectively compete, in an ecological sense, for the same finite group of susceptible hosts, so there may be an indirect effect on the population dynamics of one disease due to epidemics of another. In human populations, recovery from any serious infection is normally preceded by a period of convalescence, during which infected individuals stay at home and are effectively shielded from exposure to other infectious diseases. We present a model for the dynamics of two infectious diseases, incorporating a temporary removal of susceptibles. We use this model to explore population–level consequences of a temporary insusceptibility in childhood diseases, the dynamics of which are partly driven by differences in contact rates in and out of school terms. Significant population dynamic interference is predicted and cannot be dismissed in the limited case–study data available for measles and whooping cough in England before the vaccination era.

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