Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health assistant professor of environmental health sciences, and his team are the first-place winners of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge.”
Dr. Shaman and colleagues developed a scientifically validated system for predicting seasonal peaks of influenza in cities across the United States. During the flu season, weekly forecasts are posted at cpid.iri.columbia.edu.
“It is a great recognition for my team,” Dr. Shaman told the CDC. “I hope it brings a little more attention to the idea of forecasting infectious diseases. I think there are a number of government agencies that are beginning to recognize the value of disease forecast and understand this is a research area in which we should invest.”
Dr. Shaman’s flu system uses near real-time data from Google Flu Trends, which makes estimates of outbreaks based on the number of flu-related search queries, and weekly region-specific reports on influenza-like illness (ILI) from the CDC on verified cases of flu. The data is fed into a mathematical model, which is then calibrated to produce a more accurate and reliable forecast.
First place recognition and a prize of $75,000 went to Dr. Jeffrey Shaman and his team, including Dr. Wan Yang, a postdoctoral researcher in Environmental Health Sciences; Dr. Alicia Karspeck, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.