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Tracking Epidemics With Google Flu Trends Data and a State-Space SEIR Model

Vanja Dukic, Hedibert F. Lopes and Nicholas G. Polson

Journal of the American Statistical Association, 2012, vol. 107, issue 500, 1410-1426

Abstract: In this article, we use Google Flu Trends data together with a sequential surveillance model based on state-space methodology to track the evolution of an epidemic process over time. We embed a classical mathematical epidemiology model [a susceptible-exposed-infected-recovered (SEIR) model] within the state-space framework, thereby extending the SEIR dynamics to allow changes through time. The implementation of this model is based on a particle filtering algorithm, which learns about the epidemic process sequentially through time and provides updated estimated odds of a pandemic with each new surveillance data point. We show how our approach, in combination with sequential Bayes factors, can serve as an online diagnostic tool for influenza pandemic. We take a close look at the Google Flu Trends data describing the spread of flu in the United States during 2003--2009 and in nine separate U.S. states chosen to represent a wide range of health care and emergency system strengths and weaknesses. This article has online supplementary materials.

Date: 2012
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