Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Detecting the start of an influenza outbreak using exponentially weighted moving average charts

Stefan H Steiner1*, Kristina Grant2, Michael Coory3 and Heath A Kelly2

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Statistics, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario Canada

2 Epidemiology Unit, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Australia

3 Queensland Health and University of Queensland, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2010, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-10-37

Published: 29 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Influenza viruses cause seasonal outbreaks in temperate climates, usually during winter and early spring, and are endemic in tropical climates. The severity and length of influenza outbreaks vary from year to year. Quick and reliable detection of the start of an outbreak is needed to promote public health measures.

Methods

We propose the use of an exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) control chart of laboratory confirmed influenza counts to detect the start and end of influenza outbreaks.

Results

The chart is shown to provide timely signals in an example application with seven years of data from Victoria, Australia.

Conclusions

The EWMA control chart could be applied in other applications to quickly detect influenza outbreaks.