Predicting Influenza Disease Burden

Influenza is a respiratory disease transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes or via fomites. Globally, seasonal influenza is estimated to cause approximately one billion cases, three to five million cases of severe illness, and about 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, as in many other countries, influenza is not a notifiable disease. Estimates of disease incidence have different funding streams, are collected for a range of purposes, are conducted over different time periods and do not all include laboratory-confirmed cases. The complexity of influenza epidemiology is exacerbated as not all infections with influenza are symptomatic and it is not known if those with asymptomatic infections can transmit the disease.

In this project, we will aim to use Machine Learning to answer questions such as: What is the estimated timing, size and duration of the next seasonal influenza epidemic in New Zealand? What is the estimated impact of achieving high adult population coverage with an influenza vaccine on influenza-related mortality and morbidity in New Zealand in the next 12 months?