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Superensemble forecast of respiratory syncytial virus outbreaks at national, regional, and state levels in the United States.

Abstract

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections peak during the winter months in the United States, yet the timing, intensity, and onset of these outbreaks vary each year. An RSV vaccine is on the cusp of being released; precise models and accurate forecasts of RSV epidemics may prove vital for planning where and when the vaccine should be deployed. Accurate forecasts with sufficient spatial and temporal resolution could also be used to support the prevention or treatment of RSV infections. Previously, we developed and validated an RSV forecast system at the regional scale in the United States. This model-inference system had considerable forecast skill, relative to the historical expectance, for outbreak peak intensity, total outbreak size, and onset, but only marginal skill for predicting the timing of the outbreak peak. Here, we use a superensemble approach to combine three forecasting methods for RSV prediction in the US at three different spatial resolutions: national, regional, and state. At the regional and state levels, we find a substantial improvement of forecast skill, relative to historical expectance, for peak intensity, timing, and onset outbreak up to two months in advance of the predicted outbreak peak. Moreover, due to the greater variability of RSV outbreaks at finer spatial scales, we find that improvement of forecast skill at the state level exceeds that at the regional and national levels. Such finer scale superensemble forecasts may be more relevant for effecting local-scale interventions, particularly in communities with a high burden of RSV infection.

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