The evolution of an infectious disease outbreak in an isolated population is split into two stages: a stochastic Markov process describing the initial contamination and a linked deterministic dynamical system with random initial conditions for the continued development of the outbreak. The initial contamination stage is well approximated by the randomized SI (susceptible/infected) model. We obtain the probability density function for the early behavior of the epidemic. This provides an appropriate distribution for the initial conditions with which to describe the subsequent deterministic evolution of the system. We apply the method of matching asymptotic expansions to link the two stages. This allows us to estimate the standard deviation of the number of infectives in the developed outbreak, and the statistical characteristics of the outbreak time. The potential trajectories caused by the stochastic nature of the contamination stage show greatest divergence at the initial and fade-out stages and coincide most tightly just after the peak of the epidemic. The time to the peak of the outbreak is not strongly dependent on the initial trajectory. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
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