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  • Publication
    Epicasting: An Ensemble Wavelet Neural Network for forecasting epidemics
    Panja, Madhurima
    Kumar, Uttam
    Liu, Nan
    Infectious diseases remain among the top contributors to human illness and death worldwide, among which many diseases produce epidemic waves of infection. The lack of specific drugs and ready-to-use vaccines to prevent most of these epidemics worsens the situation. These force public health officials and policymakers to rely on early warning systems generated by accurate and reliable epidemic forecasters. Accurate forecasts of epidemics can assist stakeholders in tailoring countermeasures, such as vaccination campaigns, staff scheduling, and resource allocation, to the situation at hand, which could translate to reductions in the impact of a disease. Unfortunately, most of these past epidemics exhibit nonlinear and non-stationary characteristics due to their spreading fluctuations based on seasonal-dependent variability and the nature of these epidemics. We analyze various epidemic time series datasets using a maximal overlap discrete wavelet transform (MODWT) based autoregressive neural network and call it Ensemble Wavelet Neural Network (EWNet) model. MODWT techniques effectively characterize non-stationary behavior and seasonal dependencies in the epidemic time series and improve the nonlinear forecasting scheme of the autoregressive neural network in the proposed ensemble wavelet network framework. From a nonlinear time series viewpoint, we explore the asymptotic stationarity of the proposed EWNet model to show the asymptotic behavior of the associated Markov Chain. We also theoretically investigate the effect of learning stability and the choice of hidden neurons in the proposal. From a practical perspective, we compare our proposed EWNet framework with twenty-two statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models for fifteen real-world epidemic datasets with three test horizons using four key performance indicators. Experimental results show that the proposed EWNet is highly competitive compared to the state-of-the-art epidemic forecasting methods.