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Preventing Disease Outbreak with Game Theory

The spread of disease has been an international issue ever since the start of globalization. People unintentionally bring disease with them as they travel to their destination. The result of the spread of disease could be deadly, as seem by the Ebola virus in Africa. A recent article linked the game theory to potentially preventing the outbreak and spread of disease. The article described the choice of getting a vaccination through game theory. Although vaccines have the positive effect of preventing disease, it also has a short-term negative effect of financial cost and temporary pain. In a society where most people have been vaccinated, the family might think it is safe not to get vaccinated because everyone else are protected from the disease. However, if other people think the same way, then less people will get vaccinated. The result is that more people will be put in danger. Experts use the data gathered from the game theory to determine the potential of disease in an area. If the risk of disease is high within a region, officials could limit travelling to and from the region to prevent the spread, and take actions to eliminate the disease. Thus, game theory is used to ensure the safety of the society and highlight the importance of vaccination.

From ECON 2040, we learned the importance of game theory and the payoff matrix. In the situation with the vaccination, it could be a matrix between an individual and the society. If one of the two is vaccinated, then the one that’s vaccinated is safe and the other is in danger. If either is vaccinated, then both will be in danger. Both are safe if they are both vaccinated. It might seem that if either one is vaccinated, they wouldn’t care if the other is vaccinated. However, the reality is that the one is not vaccinated will eventually affect other people. Therefore, the best solution (Nash Equilibrium) is for the individual and society to get vaccinated. It is interesting to see that society’s exposure to risk such as disease could be analyzed and potentially prevented through the use of game theory. Although game theory is not always correct, it is able to predict the action of individuals and groups in a society. From there, the relevant people can take actions in response to the predictions.

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September 2018