A novel approach to modelling the spatial spread of airborne diseases: An epidemic model with indirect transmission

Jummy F. David, Sarafa A. Iyaniwura, Michael J. Ward, Fred Brauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We formulated and analyzed a class of coupled partial and ordinary differential equation (PDE-ODE) model to study the spread of airborne diseases. Our model describes human populations with patches and the movement of pathogens in the air with linear diffusion. The diffusing pathogens are coupled to the SIR dynamics of each population patch using an integro-differential equation. Susceptible individuals become infected at some rate whenever they are in contact with pathogens (indirect transmission), and the spread of infection in each patch depends on the density of pathogens around the patch. In the limit where the pathogens are diffusing fast, a matched asymptotic analysis is used to reduce the coupled PDE-ODE model into a nonlinear system of ODEs, which is then used to compute the basic reproduction number and final size relation for different scenarios. Numerical simulations of the reduced system of ODEs and the full PDE-ODE model are consistent, and they predict a decrease in the spread of infection as the diffusion rate of pathogens increases. Furthermore, we studied the effect of patch location on the spread of infections for the case of two population patches. Our model predicts higher infections when the patches are closer to each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3294-3328
Number of pages35
JournalMathematical Biosciences and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 27 2020


  • Airborne disease
  • Disease dynamics
  • Epidemics
  • Green's function
  • Indirect transmission
  • Matched asymptotic analysis
  • ODE
  • PDE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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