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Development and dissemination of infectious disease dynamic transmission models during the COVID-19 pandemic: what can we learn from other pathogens and how can we move forward?

Abstract

The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the unprecedented development and integration of infectious disease dynamic transmission models into policy making and public health practice. Models offer a systematic way to investigate transmission dynamics and produce short-term and long-term predictions that explicitly integrate assumptions about biological, behavioural, and epidemiological processes that affect disease transmission, burden, and surveillance. Models have been valuable tools during the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious disease outbreaks, able to generate possible trajectories of disease burden, evaluate the effectiveness of intervention strategies, and estimate key transmission variables. Particularly given the rapid pace of model development, evaluation, and integration with decision making in emergency situations, it is necessary to understand the benefits and pitfalls of transmission models. We review and highlight key aspects of the history of infectious disease dynamic models, the role of rigorous testing and evaluation, the integration with data, and the successful application of models to guide public health. Rather than being an expansive history of infectious disease models, this Review focuses on how the integration of modelling can continue to be advanced through policy and practice in appropriate and conscientious ways to support the current pandemic response.

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