Predicting epidemic risk from contact and mobility data
Eugenio Valdano (UCLA)
The vulnerability of a host population to a specific disease measures how likely pathogen introduction will lead to an epidemic outbreak, and how hard it is to contain or eliminate an ongoing one. Predicting vulnerability is thus key to designing risk-reduction strategies that limit disease burden on public health and economic development. To do that, highly-resolved data tracking contacts and mobility of the host population need to integrate into detailed models of disease dynamics. This represents a twofold challenge. Firstly, we need theoretical frameworks that turn data feeds into predictors of epidemic risk, and can identify which of the structural features of the host population drive its vulnerability. Secondly, we need new ways to access, analyze, and share the relevant contact and mobility data: a necessary step to make our predictions realistic and reliable. In my talk, I will address both issues. I will show how to analytically derive the conditions that discriminate between epidemic regime and quick pathogen extinction, by representing diseases spreading on empirically measured contacts as dynamical processes on time-evolving complex networks. The analytical core of this theory leads to a broad range of applications. At the same time, its data-driven nature prompts context-specific predictions that can inform policymaking, as I will show in two case studies: reorganizing nurse scheduling to reduce the risk of spread of healthcare-associated infections; linking the features of livestock trade movements to the spatial spread of cattle diseases. The latter application is also an example of how limited access and incomplete data collection represent a big hurdle to predictive vulnerability analysis. To overcome this, I will present a collaborative platform for analyzing and comparing trade networks coming from several European countries. Using a bring code to the data approach, our platform surmounts the strict regulations preventing data sharing, and builds an algorithm that predicts vulnerability even in situations when limited data on cattle trade are available.