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Using integrated nested Laplace approximations for the evaluation of veterinary surveillance data from Switzerland: a case-study


Birgit Schrödle, Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Hirschengraben 84, Zurich, Switzerland.


Summary.  Spatiotemporal disease mapping models have been used extensively to describe the pattern of surveillance data. They are usually formulated in a hierarchical Bayesian framework and posterior marginals are not available in closed form. Hence, the standard method for parameter estimation is Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms. A new method for approximate Bayesian inference in latent Gaussian models using integrated nested Laplace approximations has recently been proposed as an alternative. This approach promises very precise results in short computational time. The aim of the paper is to show how integrated nested Laplace approximations can be used as an inferential tool for a variety of spatiotemporal models for the analysis of reported cases of bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle from Switzerland. Conclusions concerning the problem of under-reporting in the data are drawn via a multilevel modelling strategy. Furthermore, a comparison with Markov chain Monte Carlo methods with regard to the accuracy of the parameter estimates and the usability of both approaches in practice is conducted. Approaches to model choice using integrated nested Laplace approximations are also presented.