Building test data from real outbreaks for evaluating detection algorithms

Abstract : Benchmarking surveillance systems requires realistic simulations of disease outbreaks. However, obtaining these data in sufficient quantity, with a realistic shape and covering a sufficient range of agents, size and duration, is known to be very difficult. The dataset of outbreak signals generated should reflect the likely distribution of authentic situations faced by the surveillance system, including very unlikely outbreak signals. We propose and evaluate a new approach based on the use of historical outbreak data to simulate tailored outbreak signals. The method relies on a homothetic transformation of the historical distribution followed by resampling processes (Binomial, Inverse Transform Sampling Method-ITSM, Metropolis-Hasting Random Walk, Metropolis-Hasting Independent, Gibbs Sampler, Hybrid Gibbs Sampler). We carried out an analysis to identify the most important input parameters for simulation quality and to evaluate performance for each of the resampling algorithms. Our analysis confirms the influence of the type of algorithm used and simulation parameters (i.e. days, number of cases, outbreak shape, overall scale factor) on the results. We show that, regardless of the outbreaks, algorithms and metrics chosen for the evaluation, simulation quality decreased with the increase in the number of days simulated and increased with the number of cases simulated. Simulating outbreaks with fewer cases than days of duration (i.e. overall scale factor less than 1) resulted in an important loss of information during the simulation. We found that Gibbs sampling with a shrinkage procedure provides a good balance between accuracy and data dependency. If dependency is of little importance, binomial and ITSM methods are accurate. Given the constraint of keeping the simulation within a range of plausible epidemiological curves faced by the surveillance system, our study confirms that our approach can be used to generate a large spectrum of outbreak signals.
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Gaëtan Texier, Michael Jackson, Leonel Siwe, Jean-Baptiste Meynard, Xavier Deparis, et al.. Building test data from real outbreaks for evaluating detection algorithms. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2017, 12 (9), pp.e0183992. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0183992⟩. ⟨inserm-01986527⟩

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