Epidemiological effects of seasonal oscillations in birth rates
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Seasonal oscillations in birth rates are ubiquitous in human populations. These oscillations might play an important role in infectious disease dynamics because they induce seasonal variation in the number of susceptible individuals that enter populations. We incorporate seasonality of birth rate into the standard, deterministic susceptible-infectious-recovered (SIR) and susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered (SEIR) epidemic models and identify parameter regions in which birth seasonality can be expected to have observable epidemiological effects. The SIR and SEIR models yield similar results if the infectious period in the SIR model is compared with the "infected period" (the sum of the latent and infectious periods) in the SEIR model. For extremely transmissible pathogens, large amplitude birth seasonality can induce resonant oscillations in disease incidence, bifurcations to stable multi-year epidemic cycles, and hysteresis. Typical childhood infectious diseases are not sufficiently transmissible for their asymptotic dynamics to be likely to exhibit such behaviour. However, we show that fold and period-doubling bifurcations generically occur within regions of parameter space where transients are phase-locked onto cycles resembling the limit cycles beyond the bifurcations, and that these phase-locking regions extend to arbitrarily small amplitude of seasonality of birth rates. Consequently, significant epidemiological effects of birth seasonality may occur in practice in the form of transient dynamics that are sustained by demographic stochasticity.
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