Optimal timing of disease transmission in an age-structured population.


It is a common medical folk-practice for parents to encourage their children to contract certain infectious diseases while they are young. This folk-practice is controversial, in part, because it contradicts the long-term public health goal of minimizing disease incidence. We study an epidemiological model of infectious disease in an age-structured population where virulence is age-dependent and show that, in some cases, the optimal behavior will increase disease transmission. This provides a rigorous justification of the concept of "endemic stability," and demonstrates that folk-practices may have been historically justified.

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