Epidemic Thresholds with External Agents

Siddhartha Banerjee, Avhishek Chatterjee, Sanjay Shakkottai

We study the effect of external infection sources on phase transitions in epidemic processes. In particular, we consider an epidemic spreading on a network via the SIS/SIR dynamics, which in addition is aided by external agents - sources unconstrained by the graph, but possessing a limited infection rate or virulence. Such a model captures many existing models of externally aided epidemics, and finds use in many settings - epidemiology, marketing and advertising, network robustness, etc. We provide a detailed characterization of the impact of external agents on epidemic thresholds. In particular, for the SIS model, we show that any external infection strategy with constant virulence either fails to significantly affect the lifetime of an epidemic, or at best, sustains the epidemic for a lifetime which is polynomial in the number of nodes. On the other hand, a random external-infection strategy, with rate increasing linearly in the number of infected nodes, succeeds under some conditions to sustain an exponential epidemic lifetime. We obtain similar sharp thresholds for the SIR model, and discuss the relevance of our results in a variety of settings.

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