The effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, as control measures for pandemic disease relies upon a conscientious and well-informed public who are aware of and prepared to follow advice. Unfortunately, public health messages can be undermined by competing misinformation and conspiracy theories, spread virally through communities that are already distrustful of expert opinion. In this article, we propose and analyse a simple model of the interaction between disease spread and awareness dynamics in a heterogeneous population composed of both trusting individuals who seek better quality information and will take precautionary measures, and distrusting individuals who reject better quality information and have overall riskier behaviour. We show that, as the density of the distrusting population increases, the model passes through a phase transition to a state in which major outbreaks cannot be suppressed. Our work highlights the urgent need for effective interventions to increase trust and inform the public.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210668
JournalJournal of The Royal Society Interface
Issue number188
Early online date30 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A.S. is supported by a scholarship from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Statistical Applied Mathematics at Bath (SAMBa), under the project EP/S022945/1. T.R. acknowledges the support of the Royal Society RGF∖EA∖180242. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors.


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