Influenza drift and epidemic size: The race between generating and escaping immunity

Maciej F. Boni, Julia R. Gog, Viggo Andreasen, Freddy B. Christiansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Influenza in humans is characterised by strongly annual dynamics and antigenic evolution leading to partial escape from prior host immunity. The variability of new epidemic strains depends on the amount of virus currently circulating. In this paper, the amount of antigenic variation produced each year is dependent on the epidemic size. Our model reduces to a one-dimensional map and a full mathematical analysis is presented. This simple system suggests some basic principles which may be more generally applicable. In particular, for diseases with antigenic drift, vaccination may be doubly beneficial. Not only does it protect the population through classical herd immunity, but the overall case reduction reduces the chance of new variants being produced; hence, subsequent epidemics may be milder as a result of this positive feedback. Also, a disease with a high innate rate of antigenic variation will always be able to invade a susceptible population, whereas a disease with less potential for variation may require several introduction events to become endemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-191
Number of pages13
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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