A Simulation Optimization Approach to Epidemic Forecasting.


Reliable forecasts of influenza can aid in the control of both seasonal and pandemic outbreaks. We introduce a simulation optimization (SIMOP) approach for forecasting the influenza epidemic curve. This study represents the final step of a project aimed at using a combination of simulation, classification, statistical and optimization techniques to forecast the epidemic curve and infer underlying model parameters during an influenza outbreak. The SIMOP procedure combines an individual-based model and the Nelder-Mead simplex optimization method. The method is used to forecast epidemics simulated over synthetic social networks representing Montgomery County in Virginia, Miami, Seattle and surrounding metropolitan regions. The results are presented for the first four weeks. Depending on the synthetic network, the peak time could be predicted within a 95% CI as early as seven weeks before the actual peak. The peak infected and total infected were also accurately forecasted for Montgomery County in Virginia within the forecasting period. Forecasting of the epidemic curve for both seasonal and pandemic influenza outbreaks is a complex problem, however this is a preliminary step and the results suggest that more can be achieved in this area.

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