Infectious Disease Forecasting for Public Health

by   Stephen A. Lauer, et al.

Forecasting transmission of infectious diseases, especially for vector-borne diseases, poses unique challenges for researchers. Behaviors of and interactions between viruses, vectors, hosts, and the environment each play a part in determining the transmission of a disease. Public health surveillance systems and other sources provide valuable data that can be used to accurately forecast disease incidence. However, many aspects of common infectious disease surveillance data are imperfect: cases may be reported with a delay or in some cases not at all, data on vectors may not be available, and case data may not be available at high geographical or temporal resolution. In the face of these challenges, researchers must make assumptions to either account for these underlying processes in a mechanistic model or to justify their exclusion altogether in a statistical model. Whether a model is mechanistic or statistical, researchers should evaluate their model using accepted best practices from the emerging field of infectious disease forecasting while adopting conventions from other fields that have been developing forecasting methods for decades. Accounting for assumptions and properly evaluating models will allow researchers to generate forecasts that have the potential to provide valuable insights for public health officials. This chapter provides a background to the practice of forecasting in general, discusses the biological and statistical models used for infectious disease forecasting, presents technical details about making and evaluating forecasting models, and explores the issues in communicating forecasting results in a public health context.


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