Abstract

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
Volume19
Issue number188
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022

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