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Heterogeneous adaptive behavioral responses may increase epidemic burden.

Abstract

Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) constitute the front-line responses against epidemics. Yet, the interdependence of control measures and individual microeconomics, beliefs, perceptions and health incentives, is not well understood. Epidemics constitute complex adaptive systems where individual behavioral decisions drive and are driven by, among other things, the risk of infection. To study the impact of heterogeneous behavioral responses on the epidemic burden, we formulate a two risk-groups mathematical model that incorporates individual behavioral decisions driven by risk perceptions. Our results show a trade-off between the efforts to avoid infection by the risk-evader population, and the proportion of risk-taker individuals with relaxed infection risk perceptions. We show that, in a structured population, privately computed optimal behavioral responses may lead to an increase in the final size of the epidemic, when compared to the homogeneous behavior scenario. Moreover, we find that uncertain information on the individuals' true health state may lead to worse epidemic outcomes, ultimately depending on the population's risk-group composition. Finally, we find there is a set of specific optimal planning horizons minimizing the final epidemic size, which depend on the population structure.

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