Epidemic patch models applied to pandemic influenza: Contact matrix, stochasticity, robustness of predictions
Due to the recent emergence of H5N1 virus, the modelling of pandemic influenza has become a relevant issue. Here we present an SEIR model formulated to simulate a possible outbreak in Italy, analysing its structure and, more generally, the effect of including specific details into a model. These details regard population heterogeneities, such as age and spatial distribution, as well as stochasticity, that regulates the epidemic dynamics when the number of infectives is low. We discuss and motivate the specific modelling choices made when building the model and investigate how the model details influence the predicted dynamics. Our analysis may help in deciding which elements of complexity are worth including in the design of a deterministic model for pandemic influenza, in a balance between, on the one hand, keeping the model computationally efficient and the number of parameters low and, on the other hand, maintaining the necessary realistic features.