Modeling epidemic dynamics plays a fundamental role in predicting the progress of epidemics and designing effective strategies to prevent or control them. However, while most models focus on the dynamics of a single epidemic disease, infectious agents rarely act independently in real-world contexts. Instead, either distinct pathogens or strains of the same pathogen spread successively or simultaneously in the same host population. The interaction of multiple spreading agents is a primary source of complexity in epidemic spreading and can be a critical factor in determining the disease course and outcome. Understanding how this interaction affects the epidemic trajectories is one of the most theoretically challenging problems in modern infectious disease epidemiology.
I will focus on the case of cooperative interactions that can give rise to violent outbreaks, reflecting the presence of an abrupt epidemic transition. In this case, the disease can seize a population explosively, without any warning sign, critically reducing the possibility of enacting countermeasures. As observed in other diffusive processes, the dynamics and the nature of the epidemic transition crucially depend on the topological structure of the contact network. These concepts, developed in the context of biological contagion, can also be relevant to non-biological contagion processes, such as the diffusion of ideas, rumor spreading, or the adoption of innovations.
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