A versatile web app for identifying the drivers of COVID-19 epidemics

J Transl Med. 2021 Mar 16;19(1):109. doi: 10.1186/s12967-021-02736-2.


BACKGROUND: No versatile web app exists that allows epidemiologists and managers around the world to comprehensively analyze the impacts of COVID-19 mitigation. The http://covid-webapp.numerusinc.com/ web app presented here fills this gap.

METHODS: Our web app uses a model that explicitly identifies susceptible, contact, latent, asymptomatic, symptomatic and recovered classes of individuals, and a parallel set of response classes, subject to lower pathogen-contact rates. The user inputs a CSV file of incidence and, if of interest, mortality rate data. A default set of parameters is available that can be overwritten through input or online entry, and a user-selected subset of these can be fitted to the model using maximum-likelihood estimation (MLE). Model fitting and forecasting intervals are specifiable and changes to parameters allow counterfactual and forecasting scenarios. Confidence or credible intervals can be generated using stochastic simulations, based on MLE values, or on an inputted CSV file containing Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) estimates of one or more parameters.

RESULTS: We illustrate the use of our web app in extracting social distancing, social relaxation, surveillance or virulence switching functions (i.e., time varying drivers) from the incidence and mortality rates of COVID-19 epidemics in Israel, South Africa, and England. The Israeli outbreak exhibits four distinct phases: initial outbreak, social distancing, social relaxation, and a second wave mitigation phase. An MCMC projection of this latter phase suggests the Israeli epidemic will continue to produce into late November an average of around 1500 new case per day, unless the population practices social-relaxation measures at least 5-fold below the level in August, which itself is 4-fold below the level at the start of July. Our analysis of the relatively late South African outbreak that became the world’s fifth largest COVID-19 epidemic in July revealed that the decline through late July and early August was characterised by a social distancing driver operating at more than twice the per-capita applicable-disease-class (pc-adc) rate of the social relaxation driver. Our analysis of the relatively early English outbreak, identified a more than 2-fold improvement in surveillance over the course of the epidemic. It also identified a pc-adc social distancing rate in early August that, though nearly four times the pc-adc social relaxation rate, appeared to barely contain a second wave that would break out if social distancing was further relaxed.

CONCLUSION: Our web app provides policy makers and health officers who have no epidemiological modelling or computer coding expertise with an invaluable tool for assessing the impacts of different outbreak mitigation policies and measures. This includes an ability to generate an epidemic-suppression or curve-flattening index that measures the intensity with which behavioural responses suppress or flatten the epidemic curve in the region under consideration.

PMID:33726787 | PMC:PMC7962635 | DOI:10.1186/s12967-021-02736-2

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