An “infection,” understood here in a very broad sense, can be propagated through the network of social contacts among individuals. These social contacts include both “close” contacts and “casual” encounters among individuals in transport, leisure, shopping, etc. Knowing the first through the study of the social networks is not a difficult task, but having a clear picture of the network of casual contacts is a very hard problem in a society of increasing mobility. Here we assume, on the basis of several pieces of empirical evidence, that the casual contacts between two individuals are a function of their social distance in the network of close contacts. Then, we assume that we know the network of close contacts and infer the casual encounters by means of nonrandom long-range (LR) interactions determined by the social proximity of the two individuals. This approach is then implemented in a susceptible-infected-susceptible (SIS) model accounting for the spread of infections in complex networks. A parameter called “conductance” controls the feasibility of those casual encounters. In a zero conductance network only contagion through close contacts is allowed. As the conductance increases the probability of having casual encounters also increases. We show here that as the conductance parameter increases, the rate of propagation increases dramatically and the infection is less likely to die out. This increment is particularly marked in networks with scale-free degree distributions, where infections easily become epidemics. Our model provides a general framework for studying epidemic spreading in networks with arbitrary topology with and without casual contacts accounted for by means of LR interactions.
- social contacts
- social networks
- susceptible-infected-susceptible model