A prompt public health response to a new epidemic relies on the ability to monitor and predict its evolution in real time as data accumulate. The 2009 A/H1N1 outbreak in the UK revealed pandemic data as noisy, contaminated, potentially biased and originating from multiple sources. This seriously challenges the capacity for real-time monitoring. Here, we assess the feasibility of real-time inference based on such data by constructing an analytic tool combining an age-stratified SEIR transmission model with various observation models describing the data generation mechanisms. As batches of data become available, a sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) algorithm is developed to synthesise multiple imperfect data streams, iterate epidemic inferences and assess model adequacy amidst a rapidly evolving epidemic environment, substantially reducing computation time in comparison to standard MCMC, to ensure timely delivery of real-time epidemic assessments. In application to simulated data designed to mimic the 2009 A/H1N1 epidemic, SMC is shown to have additional benefits in terms of assessing predictive performance and coping with parameter nonidentifiability.
"Efficient real-time monitoring of an emerging influenza pandemic: How feasible?." Ann. Appl. Stat. 14 (1) 74 - 93, March 2020. https://doi.org/10.1214/19-AOAS1278