Forecasting influenza activity using machine-learned mobility map
Human mobility is a primary driver of infectious disease spread. However, existing data is limited in availability, coverage, granularity, and timeliness. Data-driven forecasts of disease dynamics are crucial for decision-making by health officials and private citizens alike. In this work, we focus on a machine-learned anonymized mobility map (hereon referred to as AMM) aggregated over hundreds of millions of smartphones and evaluate its utility in forecasting epidemics. We factor AMM into a metapopulation model to retrospectively forecast influenza in the USA and Australia. We show that the AMM model performs on-par with those based on commuter surveys, which are sparsely available and expensive. We also compare it with gravity and radiation based models of mobility, and find that the radiation model's performance is quite similar to AMM and commuter flows. Additionally, we demonstrate our model's ability to predict disease spread even across state boundaries. Our work contributes towards developing timely infectious disease forecasting at a global scale using human mobility datasets expanding their applications in the area of infectious disease epidemiology. Human mobility plays a central role in the spread of infectious diseases and can help in forecasting incidence. Here the authors show a comparison of multiple mobility benchmarks in forecasting influenza, and demonstrate the value of a machine-learned mobility map with global coverage at multiple spatial scales.