Spontaneous divergence of disease status in an economic epidemiological game

Ewan Colman, Nick Hanley, Rowland Kao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We introduce a game inspired by the challenges of disease management in livestock farming and the transmission of endemic disease through a trade network. Success in this game comes from balancing the cost of buying new stock with the risk that it will be carrying some disease. When players follow a simple memory-based strategy we observe a spontaneous separation into two groups corresponding to players with relatively high, or low, levels of infection. By modelling the dynamics of both the disease and the formation and breaking of trade relationships, we derive the conditions for which this separation occurs as a function of the transmission rate and the threshold level of acceptable disease for each player. When interactions in the game are restricted to players that neighbour each other in a small-world network, players tend to have similar levels of infection as their neighbours. We conclude that success in economic-epidemiological systems can originate from misfortune and geographical circumstances as well as by innate differences in personal attitudes towards risk.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2242
Early online date7 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020


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