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Game theory can help prevent disease outbreaks

In the article “Game theory can help prevent disease outbreaks”, authors Nicos Georgiou and Istvan Zoltan Kiss describe how we can use game theory to prevent various worldwide diseases. They point out that the actions an individual wants to take to prevent disease may not be beneficial for the whole group. Game theory, however, can help in predicting how an individual in a group setting should function depending on the actions of everyone else in the group.

An example of vaccination comes up in the article, where the authors state that the pros and cons of vaccination can be weighed to decide what an individual’s actions should be. It may seem intuitive to go ahead and receive the vaccination, but if everyone else in the population also gets the vaccination, then the better option may be to NOT get the vaccination. Unfortunately, we do not know how other people think when deciding whether or not to get a vaccination, but if only!

A real-life example of people weighing the costs and benefits of receiving a vaccination happened with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. When the vaccine was falsely linked with autism, the vaccination rates in several countries dropped, leading to increases in measles, mumps, and rubella; death; and fatal permanent damages. In this situation, the wants of the individual overcame the wants of the whole group. Game theory could be implemented to decide the outcomes of the individuals in order to benefit the whole group. Authorities can then decrease the negative effects of an outbreak by taking the proper steps to diminish an outbreak.

This relates to INFO 2040: Networks because we mentioned Nash equilibrium in several classes and have read extensively about it. In addition to linking Nash equilibrium to real-life decisions such as what to study for, which animal to hunt, and what paths to take, we can utilize the concept to apply to improving health and safety as well. Based off the article, it sounds like the authors suggest a mixed strategy to decrease disease outbreaks, as there is no one simple resolution or dominant strategy to take in preventing worldwide illnesses.




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September 2018