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Keywords:

  • Compartmental models;
  • individual-based models;
  • infectious diseases;
  • influenza forecasting;
  • pandemics;
  • time series models

Forecasting the dynamics of influenza outbreaks could be useful for decision-making regarding the allocation of public health resources. Reliable forecasts could also aid in the selection and implementation of interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality due to influenza illness. This paper reviews methods for influenza forecasting proposed during previous influenza outbreaks and those evaluated in hindsight. We discuss the various approaches, in addition to the variability in measures of accuracy and precision of predicted measures. PubMed and Google Scholar searches for articles on influenza forecasting retrieved sixteen studies that matched the study criteria. We focused on studies that aimed at forecasting influenza outbreaks at the local, regional, national, or global level. The selected studies spanned a wide range of regions including USA, Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Cuba. The methods were also applied to forecast a single measure or multiple measures. Typical measures predicted included peak timing, peak height, daily/weekly case counts, and outbreak magnitude. Due to differences in measures used to assess accuracy, a single estimate of predictive error for each of the measures was difficult to obtain. However, collectively, the results suggest that these diverse approaches to influenza forecasting are capable of capturing specific outbreak measures with some degree of accuracy given reliable data and correct disease assumptions. Nonetheless, several of these approaches need to be evaluated and their performance quantified in real-time predictions.