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Power-law models for infectious disease spread

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Meyer Sebastian, Held Leonhard,
Project Statistical methods for spatio-temporal modelling and prediction of infectious diseases
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Annals of Applied Statistics
Volume (Issue) 8(3)
Page(s) 1612 - 1639
Title of proceedings Annals of Applied Statistics
DOI 10.1214/14-AOAS743

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Short-time human travel behaviour can be described by a power law with respect to distance. We incorporate this information in space-time models for infectious disease surveillance data to better capture the dynamics of disease spread. Two previously established model classes are extended, which both decompose disease risk additively into endemic and epidemic components: a spatio-temporal point process model for individual-level data and a multivariate time-series model for aggregated count data. In both frameworks, a power-law decay of spatial interaction is embedded into the epidemic component and estimated jointly with all other unknown parameters using (penalised) likelihood inference. Whereas the power law can be based on Euclidean distance in the point process model, a novel formulation is proposed for count data where the power law depends on the order of the neighbourhood of discrete spatial units. The performance of the new approach is investigated by a reanalysis of individual cases of invasive meningococcal disease in Germany (2002-2008) and count data on influenza in 140 administrative districts of Southern Germany (2001-2008). In both applications, the power law substantially improves model fit and predictions, and is reasonably close to alternative qualitative formulations, where distance and order of neighbourhood, respectively, are treated as a factor. Implementation in the R package surveillance allows the approach to be applied in other settings.