Results from the centers for disease control and prevention’s predict the 2013–2014 Influenza Season Challenge

M. Biggerstaff, D. Alper , M. Dredze , S. Fox , I. Chun-Hai Fung, K.S. Hickmann, B. Lewis , R. Rosenfeld, J. Shaman, Ming-Hsiang Tsou, P. Velardi, A. Vespignani, L. Finelli and for the Influenza Forecasting Contest Working Group
BMC Infectious Diseases
16:357 (2016)
July 22, 2016


BACKGROUND: Early  insights into the timing of the start, peak, and intensity of the influenza  season could be useful in planning influenza prevention and control  activities. To encourage development and innovation in influenza forecasting,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) organized a challenge to  predict the 2013-14 Unites States influenza season. METHODS: Challenge  contestants were asked to forecast the start, peak, and intensity of the  2013-2014 influenza season at the national level and at any or all Health and  Human Services (HHS) region level(s). The challenge ran from December 1,  2013-March 27, 2014; contestants were required to submit 9 biweekly forecasts  at the national level to be eligible. The selection of the winner was based  on expert evaluation of the methodology used to make the prediction and the  accuracy of the prediction as judged against the U.S. Outpatient  Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet). RESULTS: Nine teams  submitted 13 forecasts for all required milestones. The first forecast was  due on December 2, 2013; 3/13 forecasts received correctly predicted the  start of the influenza season within one week, 1/13 predicted the peak within  1 week, 3/13 predicted the peak ILINet percentage within 1 %, and 4/13  predicted the season duration within 1 week. For the prediction due on  December 19, 2013, the number of forecasts that correctly forecasted the peak  week increased to 2/13, the peak percentage to 6/13, and the duration of the  season to 6/13. As the season progressed, the forecasts became more stable  and were closer to the season milestones. CONCLUSION: Forecasting has become  technically feasible, but further efforts are needed to improve forecast  accuracy so that policy makers can reliably use these predictions. CDC and  challenge contestants plan to build upon the methods developed during this  contest to improve the accuracy of influenza forecasts.

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