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1.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-324702

ABSTRACT

Background. Clinical reports from patients suffering from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reflect a high prevalence of sensory deprivation or loss pertaining to smell (dysosmia/anosmia) and/or taste (dysgeusia/ageusia). Given the importance of the senses to daily functioning and personal experience, the mental health consequences of these symptoms warrant further attention. Methods. A cohort of Reddit users posting within the /r/covid19positive subforum (N=15,821) was leveraged to analyze instantaneous risk of transition to a state of suicidal ideation or depression using Cox proportional-hazards models. Risk transition was defined by posts made in suicide- or depression-related forums, or mentions of relevant phrases with and without mention of anosmia/ageusia in /r/covid19positive. Self-diagnosis of COVID-19 was also modeled as a separate and simultaneous predictor of mental health risk. Results. Mention of anosmia/ageusia was significantly associated with transition to a risk state. Users with a history of anosmia/ageusia-related posts and who self-identified as COVID-19 positive had 30% higher instantaneous risk relative to others. The highest increase in instantaneous risk of suicidal ideation or depression occurred more than 100 days after first posting in /r/covid19positive. Limitations. Use of self-diagnosed disease as well as a broad array of anosmia/ageusia-related terminology may entail both information bias and overestimates of symptom incidence. Conclusions. The specific effects of COVID-19 on the senses may have long-term implications for patient mental health well-being beyond the primary recovery period. Future work is needed to investigate the longitudinal mental health burden of residual COVID-19 symptom presentation.

2.
EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-324701

ABSTRACT

COVID19 was first reported in England at the end of January 2020, and by mid-June over 150,000 cases were reported. We assume that, similarly to influenza-like illnesses, people who suffer from COVID19 may query for their symptoms prior to accessing the medical system (or in lieu of it). Therefore, we analyzed searches to Bing from users in England, identifying cases where unexpected rises in relevant symptom searches occurred at specific areas of the country. Our analysis shows that searches for "fever" and "cough" were the most correlated with future case counts, with searches preceding case counts by 16-17 days. Unexpected rises in search patterns were predictive of future case counts multiplying by 2.5 or more within a week, reaching an Area Under Curve (AUC) of 0.64. Similar rises in mortality were predicted with an AUC of approximately 0.61 at a lead time of 3 weeks. Thus, our metric provided Public Health England with an indication which could be used to plan the response to COVID19 and could possibly be utilized to detect regional anomalies of other pathogens.

3.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-314842

ABSTRACT

Previous research has demonstrated that various properties of infectious diseases can be inferred from online search behaviour. In this work we use time series of online search query frequencies to gain insights about the prevalence of COVID-19 in multiple countries. We first develop unsupervised modelling techniques based on associated symptom categories identified by the United Kingdom's National Health Service and Public Health England. We then attempt to minimise an expected bias in these signals caused by public interest -- as opposed to infections -- using the proportion of news media coverage devoted to COVID-19 as a proxy indicator. Our analysis indicates that models based on online searches precede the reported confirmed cases and deaths by 16.7 (10.2 - 23.2) and 22.1 (17.4 - 26.9) days, respectively. We also investigate transfer learning techniques for mapping supervised models from countries where the spread of disease has progressed extensively to countries that are in earlier phases of their respective epidemic curves. Furthermore, we compare time series of online search activity against confirmed COVID-19 cases or deaths jointly across multiple countries, uncovering interesting querying patterns, including the finding that rarer symptoms are better predictors than common ones. Finally, we show that web searches improve the short-term forecasting accuracy of autoregressive models for COVID-19 deaths. Our work provides evidence that online search data can be used to develop complementary public health surveillance methods to help inform the COVID-19 response in conjunction with more established approaches.

4.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-318883

ABSTRACT

Triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, Israel's Ministry of Health (MoH) held a virtual Datathon based on deidentified governmental data. Organized by a multidisciplinary committee, Israel's research community was invited to offer insights to COVID-19 policy challenges. The Datathon was designed to (1) develop operationalizable data-driven models to address COVID-19 health-policy challenges and (2) build a community of researchers from academia, industry, and government and rebuild their trust in the government. Three specific challenges were defined based on their relevance (significance, data availability, and potential to anonymize the data): immunization policies, special needs of the young population, and populations whose rate of compliance with COVID-19 testing is low. The MoH team extracted diverse, reliable, up-to-date, and deidentified governmental datasets for each challenge. Secure remote-access research environments with relevant data science tools were set on Amazon Web. The MoH screened the applicants and accepted around 80 participants, teaming them to balance areas of expertise as well as represent all sectors of the community. One week following the event, anonymous surveys for participants and mentors were distributed to assess overall usefulness and points for improvement. The 48-hour Datathon and pre-event sessions included 18 multidisciplinary teams, mentored by 20 data scientists, 6 epidemiologists, 5 presentation mentors, and 12 judges. The insights developed by the 3 winning teams are currently considered by the MoH as potential data science methods relevant for national policies. The most positive results were increased trust in the MoH and greater readiness to work with the government on these or future projects. Detailed feedback offered concrete lessons for improving the structure and organization of future government-led datathons.

5.
Sci Rep ; 12(1): 2373, 2022 02 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1684110

ABSTRACT

Prior work has shown the utility of using Internet searches to track the incidence of different respiratory illnesses. Similarly, people who suffer from COVID-19 may query for their symptoms prior to accessing the medical system (or in lieu of it). To assist in the UK government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic we analyzed searches for relevant symptoms on the Bing web search engine from users in England to identify areas of the country where unexpected rises in relevant symptom searches occurred. These were reported weekly to the UK Health Security Agency to assist in their monitoring of the pandemic. Our analysis shows that searches for "fever" and "cough" were the most correlated with future case counts during the initial stages of the pandemic, with searches preceding case counts by up to 21 days. Unexpected rises in search patterns were predictive of anomalous rises in future case counts within a week, reaching an Area Under Curve of 0.82 during the initial phase of the pandemic, and later reducing due to changes in symptom presentation. Thus, analysis of regional searches for symptoms can provide an early indicator (of more than one week) of increases in COVID-19 case counts.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Disease Hotspot , Search Engine/statistics & numerical data , Cough/epidemiology , England/epidemiology , Fever/epidemiology , Humans
6.
Sci Rep ; 11(1): 24449, 2021 12 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1585776

ABSTRACT

Syndromic surveillance systems monitor disease indicators to detect emergence of diseases and track their progression. Here, we report on a rapidly deployed active syndromic surveillance system for tracking COVID-19 in Israel. The system was a novel combination of active and passive components: Ads were shown to people searching for COVID-19 symptoms on the Google search engine. Those who clicked on the ads were referred to a chat bot which helped them decide whether they needed urgent medical care. Through its conversion optimization mechanism, the ad system was guided to focus on those people who required such care. Over 6 months, the ads were shown approximately 214,000 times and clicked on 12,000 times, and 722 people were informed they needed urgent care. Click rates on ads and the fraction of people deemed to require urgent care were correlated with the hospitalization rate ([Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text], respectively) with a lead time of 9 days. Males and younger people were more likely to use the system, and younger people were more likely to be determined to require urgent care (slope: [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]). Thus, the system can assist in predicting case numbers and hospital load at a significant lead time and, simultaneously, help people determine if they need medical care.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Sentinel Surveillance , Ambulatory Care/statistics & numerical data , COVID-19/pathology , COVID-19/virology , Hospitalization/statistics & numerical data , Humans , Israel/epidemiology , Linear Models , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Search Engine
7.
Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity ; 7(4):208, 2021.
Article in English | MDPI | ID: covidwho-1444250

ABSTRACT

Triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, Israel’s Ministry of Health (MoH) held a virtual datathon based on deidentified governmental data. Organized by a multidisciplinary committee, Israel’s research community was invited to offer insights to help solve COVID-19 policy challenges. The Datathon was designed to develop operationalizable data-driven models to address COVID-19 health policy challenges. Specific relevant challenges were defined and diverse, reliable, up-to-date, deidentified governmental datasets were extracted and tested. Secure remote-access research environments were established. Registration was open to all citizens. Around a third of the applicants were accepted, and they were teamed to balance areas of expertise and represent all sectors of the community. Anonymous surveys for participants and mentors were distributed to assess usefulness and points for improvement and retention for future datathons. The Datathon included 18 multidisciplinary teams, mentored by 20 data scientists, 6 epidemiologists, 5 presentation mentors, and 12 judges. The insights developed by the three winning teams are currently considered by the MoH as potential data science methods relevant for national policies. Based on participants’ feedback, the process for future data-driven regulatory responses for health crises was improved. Participants expressed increased trust in the MoH and readiness to work with the government on these or future projects.

8.
J Affect Disord Rep ; 5: 100156, 2021 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1244759

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Clinical reports from patients suffering from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reflect a high prevalence of sensory deprivation or loss pertaining to smell (dysosmia/anosmia) and/or taste (dysgeusia/ageusia). Given the importance of the senses to daily functioning and personal experience, the mental health consequences of these symptoms warrant further attention. METHODS: A cohort of Reddit users posting within the /r/covid19positive subforum (N = 15,821) was leveraged to analyze instantaneous risk of transition to a state of suicidal ideation or depression using Cox proportional-hazards models. Risk transition was defined by posts made in suicide- or depression-related forums, or mentions of relevant phrases with and without mention of anosmia/ageusia in /r/covid19positive. Self-diagnosis of COVID-19 was also modeled as a separate and simultaneous predictor of mental health risk. RESULTS: Mention of anosmia/ageusia was significantly associated with transition to a risk state. Users with a history of anosmia/ageusia-related posts and who self-identified as COVID-19 positive had 30% higher instantaneous risk relative to others. The highest increase in instantaneous risk of suicidal ideation or depression occurred more than 100 days after first posting in /r/covid19positive. LIMITATIONS: Use of self-diagnosed disease as well as a broad array of anosmia/ageusia-related terminology may entail both information bias and overestimates of symptom incidence. CONCLUSIONS: The specific effects of COVID-19 on the senses may have long-term implications for patient mental health well-being beyond the primary recovery period. Future work is needed to investigate the longitudinal mental health burden of residual COVID-19 symptom presentation.

9.
NPJ Digit Med ; 4(1): 17, 2021 Feb 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1072176

ABSTRACT

Previous research has demonstrated that various properties of infectious diseases can be inferred from online search behaviour. In this work we use time series of online search query frequencies to gain insights about the prevalence of COVID-19 in multiple countries. We first develop unsupervised modelling techniques based on associated symptom categories identified by the United Kingdom's National Health Service and Public Health England. We then attempt to minimise an expected bias in these signals caused by public interest-as opposed to infections-using the proportion of news media coverage devoted to COVID-19 as a proxy indicator. Our analysis indicates that models based on online searches precede the reported confirmed cases and deaths by 16.7 (10.2-23.2) and 22.1 (17.4-26.9) days, respectively. We also investigate transfer learning techniques for mapping supervised models from countries where the spread of the disease has progressed extensively to countries that are in earlier phases of their respective epidemic curves. Furthermore, we compare time series of online search activity against confirmed COVID-19 cases or deaths jointly across multiple countries, uncovering interesting querying patterns, including the finding that rarer symptoms are better predictors than common ones. Finally, we show that web searches improve the short-term forecasting accuracy of autoregressive models for COVID-19 deaths. Our work provides evidence that online search data can be used to develop complementary public health surveillance methods to help inform the COVID-19 response in conjunction with more established approaches.

10.
BMJ Open ; 10(12): e041004, 2020 12 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-972147

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: Rapid detection and surveillance of COVID-19 is essential to reducing spread of the virus. Inadequate screening capacity has hampered COVID-19 detection, while traditional infectious disease response has been delayed due to significant demands for healthcare resources, time and personnel. This study investigated whether an online health decision-support tool could supplement COVID-19 surveillance and detection in China and the USA. SETTING: Daily website traffic to Thermia was collected from China and the USA, and cross-correlation analyses were used to assess the designated lag time between the daily time series of Thermia sessions and COVID-19 case counts from 22 January to 23 April 2020. PARTICIPANTS: Thermia is a validated health decision-support tool that was modified to include content aimed at educating users about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on COVID-19 symptoms. An advertising campaign was released on Microsoft Advertising to refer searches for COVID-19 symptoms to Thermia. RESULTS: The lead times observed for Thermia sessions to COVID-19 case reports was 3 days in China and 19 days in the USA. We found negative cross-correlation between the number of Thermia sessions and rates of influenza A and B, possibly due to the decreasing prevalence of influenza and the lack of specificity of the system for identification of COVID-19. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that early deployment of an online campaign and modified health decision-support tool may support identification of emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19. Researchers and public health officials should deploy web campaigns as early as possible in an epidemic to detect, identify and engage those potentially at risk to help prevent transmission of the disease.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Decision Support Systems, Clinical , Health Promotion , Internet , Population Surveillance/methods , Advertising , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/prevention & control , China/epidemiology , Early Diagnosis , Humans , United States/epidemiology
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