Optimizing COVID-19 surveillance using historical electronic health records of influenza infection

Zhanwei Du, Yuan Bai, Lin Wang, Jose L. Herrera-Diestra, Zhilu Yuan, Renzhong Guo, Benjamin J. Cowling, Lauren A. Meyers*, Petter Holme*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Targeting surveillance resources toward individuals at high risk of early infection can accelerate the detection of emerging outbreaks. However, it is unclear which individuals are at high risk without detailed data on interpersonal and physical contacts. We propose a data-driven COVID-19 surveillance strategy using Electronic Health Record (EHR) data that identifies the most vulnerable individuals who acquired the earliest infections during historical influenza seasons. Our simulations for all three networks demonstrate that the EHR-based strategy performs as well as the most-connected strategy. Compared to the random acquaintance surveillance, our EHR-based strategy detects the early warning signal and peak timing much earlier. On average, the EHR-based strategy has 9.8 days of early warning and 13.5 days of peak timings, respectively, before the whole population. For the urban network, the expected values of our method are better than the random acquaintance strategy (24% for early warning and 14% in-advance for peak time). For a scale-free network, the average performance of the EHR-based method is 75% of the early warning and 109% in-advance when compared with the random acquaintance strategy. If the contact structure is persistent enough, it will be reflected by their history of infection. Our proposed approach suggests that seasonal influenza infection records could be used to monitor new outbreaks of emerging epidemics, including COVID-19. This is a method that exploits the effect of contact structure without considering it explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalPNAS Nexus
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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