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How Game Theory Can Be Applied to Disease Outbreaks


This article discusses how game theory could be applied when making decisions regarding what to do during an outbreak of disease. The author goes in great detail about the potential outcomes for two scenarios. The first example is with vaccinations. While vaccines have been proven safe multiple times, the author gives some valid reasons for people to not get vaccinated including having a weak immune system and the cost of getting vaccinated. The problem is when everyone thinks this way, meaning that only a few people are actually protected from the disease, and allowing outbreaks occur. When people began falsely linking vaccines with causing autism, more families decided to not vaccinate their kids, as they erroneously thought that vaccinating their kids would cause them more harm than good. As the percentage of people who were not vaccinated grew, diseases like the measles and mumps flourished, resulting in illnesses and deaths that could have been avoided. This illustrates how the best strategy for an individual can go against what is best for the group.

The next example demonstrates an example where group and individuals are largely the same. The author discusses how once an outbreak occurs, officials must determine if they should allow other people into the affected area. People who choose to go to areas where outbreaks occur risk getting sick themselves or spreading the disease when they return home. Some people still want to travel to these regions for business or tourism. Additionally, the author also mentions how completely closing an area’s borders can prevent medical supplies from getting to the people who need them most. In most cases, the group and individual want the same outcome; to limit the spread of disease. However, there are occasions where people may go against the goals of the group, such as trying to flee the area before they themselves get sick, even though they may already be ill but not showing symptoms. Game theory allows people to determine when individuals may try to go against the desires of the group, which gives authorities the ability to stop further harm to the entire population.




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October 2018