Math & Beyond

What is the Mathematics behind Covid-19?


25 November 2020


Understanding the growth of corona virus is largely about numbers. Therefore, mathematical epidemiology is playing a crucial role in the fight against this infectious disease.

With basic mathematical ideas, researchers can forecast the progression of this disease and understand the intervention on the disease spread to stop the pandemic.

Corona virus

As it is always said, “nature has all the answers”.

A small sapling may grow into a beautiful tree in years. This tree will have branches leading to a beautiful structure of a tree with leaves and flowers blooming from it. So, branching in trees is the arrangement and position of the branches on a tree which gives the tree a definite shape.

What is the Mathematics behind Covid-19-PDF

This blog will help us understand the spread of Covid-19 using mathematical concepts such as Tree growth in gardening. Here is a downloadable PDF to explore more.

📥 What is the Mathematics behind Covid-19-PDF


Also read:

The spread of COVID-19. How and When?

Let us understand the spread of Covid-19 using a few mathematical concepts, one out of which is the Tree growth in gardening.


A binary tree is used to understand the same. A binary tree is a tree structure in which it has a base node and each node has at most two or more nodes.

Exponential growth is a specific way that a quantity may increase over time. It happens when the instantaneous rate of change of a quantity changes with respect to time proportionally to the quantity itself. 

Let us understand this concept with an example of tree growth in gardening showing how the virus spreads.

If each infected person ends up infecting two or three new people, then we’ll have more and more infections every day and the virus will spread very quickly.

gardener explaining multiplication of disease     gardener explaining exponential growth of disease

Another important concept is linear growth. It is detected as the growth by the same amount each time step.

Let us take an example of linear growth to show the virus spread using the binary tree growth concept.

If each person just infects one new person, then the virus will spread very slowly and in a manageable way where we can control the spread of it.

gardener explaining linear growth of disease

Here’s a quick video to give an idea about the virus spread in exponential growth and linear growth.

So, if we reduce the spread of Covid-19 to an extent, that is when an infected person will infect 0.5 new people, then the average number of infections will be 0.5 and there is a 50% chance that they will infect one new person and a 50% chance that they will infect no new person.

50% chance of disease transmission

Hence, the next question would be:

What is the Reproductive Number?

Reproductive number” or R0. It is the number of new people who contract the virus on average from an infected person. It depends on how easily the germ jumps from person to person.

It also matters how many people are infected and how long are they actually contagious. R0 only matters at the beginning of an outbreak.

From the tree growth concept, we learned that the R0=2 or 3, the disease grows exponentially, and when R0=1, the disease grows linearly.

disease transmission from one person to many


Apart from the spread of this deadly virus, we are all in this pandemic together. We can help each other from not spreading this disease by following a few steps like:

  • Clean your hands often. Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain a safe distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.

 So Stay home, Stay safe!

Image of a girl with mask


Frequently Added Questions (FAQs)

What are the coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause illness in humans and animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?

There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food. The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperatures similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food.

Who is most at risk for COVID-19?

The COVID-19 virus infects people of all ages. However, evidence to date suggests that two groups of people are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease. These are older people; and those with underlying medical conditions.

External References

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