Steering a Historical Disease Forecasting Model Under a Pandemic: Case of Flu and COVID-19

by   Alexander Rodriguez, et al.

Forecasting influenza in a timely manner aids health organizations and policymakers in adequate preparation and decision making. However, effective influenza forecasting still remains a challenge despite increasing research interest. It is even more challenging amidst the COVID pandemic, when the influenza-like illness (ILI) counts is affected by various factors such as symptomatic similarities with COVID-19 and shift in healthcare seeking patterns of the general population. We term the ILI values observed when it is potentially affected as COVID-ILI. Under the current pandemic, historical influenza models carry valuable expertise about the disease dynamics but face difficulties adapting. Therefore, we propose CALI-NET, a neural transfer learning architecture which allows us to 'steer' a historical disease forecasting model to new scenarios where flu and COVID co-exist. Our framework enables this adaptation by automatically learning when it is should emphasize learning from COVID-related signals and when from the historical model. In such way, we exploit representations learned from historical ILI data as well as the limited COVID-related signals. Our experiments demonstrate that our approach is successful in adapting a historical forecasting model to the current pandemic. In addition, we show that success in our primary goal, adaptation, does not sacrifice overall performance as compared with state-of-the-art influenza forecasting approaches.


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