Fine-Grained Dengue Forecasting Using Telephone Triage Services

December 06, 2016 by Nabeel Abdur Rehman, Shankar Kalyanaraman, Talal Ahmad, Fahad Pervaiz, Umar Saif, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian

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Thousands of lives are lost every year in developing countries for failing to detect epidemics early because of the lack of real-time disease surveillance data. We present results from a large-scale deployment of a telephone triage service as a basis for dengue forecasting in Pakistan. Our system uses statistical analysis of dengue-related phone calls to accurately forecast suspected dengue cases 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time at a subcity level (correlation of up to 0.93). Our system has been operational at scale in Pakistan for the past 3 years and has received more than 300,000 phone calls. The predictions from our system are widely disseminated to public health officials and form a critical part of active government strategies for dengue containment. Our work is the first to demonstrate, with significant empirical evidence, that an accurate, location-specific disease forecasting system can be built using analysis of call volume data from a public health hotline.