Background Seasonal influenza causes annual epidemics by the accumulation of antigenic changes. Pandemic influenza occurs through a major antigenic change of the influenza A virus, which can originate from other hosts. Although new antigenic variants of the influenza A virus replace formerly circulating seasonal and pandemic viruses, replacement mechanisms remain poorly understood. Methods A stochastic individual-based SEIR (susceptible–exposed–infectious–recovered) model with two viral strains (formerly circulating old strain and newly emerged strain) was developed for simulations to elucidate the replacement mechanisms. Results Factors and conditions of virus and host populations affecting the replacement were identified. Replacement is more likely to occur in tropical regions than temperate regions. The magnitude of the ongoing epidemic by the old strain, herd immunity against the old strain, and timing of appearance of the new strain are not that important for replacement. It is probable that the frequency of replacement by a pandemic virus is higher than a seasonal virus because of the high initial susceptibility and high basic reproductive number of the pandemic virus. Conclusions The findings of this study on replacement mechanisms could lead to a better understanding of virus transmission dynamics and may possibly be helpful in establishing an effective strategy to mitigate the impact of seasonal and pandemic influenza.
- Antigenic drift
- Transmission dynamics