The effect of risk-taking behavior in epidemic models

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We study an epidemic model that incorporates risk-taking behaviour as a response to a perceived low prevalence of infection that follows from the administration of an effective treatment or vaccine. We assume that knowledge about the number of infected, recovered and vaccinated individuals has an effect in the contact rate between susceptible and infectious individuals. We show that, whenever optimism prevails in the risk behaviour response, the fate of an epidemic may change from disease clearance to disease persistence. Moreover, under certain conditions on the parameters, increasing the efficiency of vaccine and/or treatment has the unwanted effect of increasing the epidemic reproductive number, suggesting a wider range of diseases may become endemic due to risk-taking alone. These results indicate that the manner in which treatment/vaccine effectiveness is advertised can have an important influence on how the epidemic unfolds.