Evaluating the dynamic interplay of social distancing policies regarding airborne pathogens through a temporal interaction-driven model that uses real-world and synthetic data

Osnat Mokryn, Alex Abbey, Yanir Marmor, Yuval Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has exhibited diverse patterns of spread across countries and communities, emphasizing the need to consider the underlying population dynamics in modeling its progression and the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies in combating viral transmission within human communities. Such an understanding requires accurate modeling of the interplay between the community dynamics and the disease propagation dynamics within the community. Methods: We build on an interaction-driven model of an airborne disease over contact networks that we have defined. Using the model, we evaluate the effectiveness of temporal, spatial, and spatiotemporal social distancing policies. Temporal social distancing involves a pure dilation of the timeline while preserving individual activity potential and thus prolonging the period of interaction; spatial distancing corresponds to social distancing pods; and spatiotemporal distancing pertains to the situation in which fixed subgroups of the overall group meet at alternate times. We evaluate these social distancing policies over real-world interactions’ data and over history-preserving synthetic temporal random networks. Furthermore, we evaluate the policies for the disease's with different number of initial patients, corresponding to either the phase in the progression of the infection through a community or the number of patients infected together at the initial infection event. We expand our model to consider the exposure to viral load, which we correlate with the meetings’ duration. Results: Our results demonstrate the superiority of decreasing social interactions (i.e., time dilation) within the community over partial isolation strategies, such as the spatial distancing pods and the spatiotemporal distancing strategy. In addition, we found that slow-spreading pathogens (i.e., pathogens that require a longer exposure to infect) spread roughly at the same rate as fast-spreading ones in highly active communities. This result is surprising since the pathogens may follow different paths. However, we demonstrate that the dilation of the timeline considerably slows the spread of the slower pathogens. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that the temporal dynamics of a community have a more significant effect on the spread of the disease than the characteristics of the spreading processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104601
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Community infection rate
  • Interaction-driven contagion model
  • Social distancing
  • Temporal networks
  • Time dilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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