Harnessing human mobility and surveillance data for disease forecasting to drive evidence-based public health policy during the COVID‑19 epidemic

Bogoch, Isaac | $674,800

Ontario University Health Network 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

COVID‑19 emerged from Wuhan, China in late December 2019 and is currently spreading to international destinations, globally. At the time of writing, cases have been confirmed in 24 countries worldwide. Of major concern are early indications of human-to-human transmission outside of China in those without a travel history to China. During the two months of this epidemic, public health policy has adapted rapidly to emerging information about disease location, disease burden, and clinical features of COVID-19. Public health screening and interventions will need to continuously evolve over the course of this epidemic to keep up with new foci of infection and potential new regions of COVID‑19 exportation. We aim to harness validated tools to predict where COVID‑19 will spread in real time by using a novel, AI-driven web-based surveillance tool coupled with real-time human mobility data. This surveillance system identifies regions with real or suspected cases of COVID-19. We simultaneously harness global commercial air transportation data and geo-referenced mobile device data to reflect human mobility, also in real time. We have successfully validated these tools for COVID‑19 forecasting during the course of this epidemic and published our results in peer-reviewed literature. We will first use the AI-based surveillance system to identify regions with confirmed and suspected COVID‑19 cases. We will then model the spread of infection from these locations by harnessing human mobility data to identify and forecast new regions (at the city, regional, and national level) for virus importation. We will work closely with our partners in the World Health Organization, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to use this data to help drive evidence-based public health policy in real time, with a focus on global projection strategies, and strategies for low and middle income countries in Southeast Asia.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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