The ability of an infection to transmit from an infectious individual to another who is susceptible to that infection depends on many factors, but an essential component is that there should be a point of contact between the two which is either direct—such as through droplets, skin to skin contacts, or sexual transmission, and so on—or indirect, such as via insect vectors or through ingestion or other contact with infective particles which have been disseminated into the environment, for example, through food or water, or contaminated objects. No matter how the infective contact is made, if on average each infection in an individual is only able to newly infect, directly or indirectly, less than one other individual, the infection itself will inevitably die out in this population; the operation of chance effects may result in shorter or longer chains of infection, but in the longer term the infection will be unable to sustain itself. Thus, in order to persist in a population, each infection must, on average, result in the infection of at least one further individual, that is, the infection must reproduce itself at least once.
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