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Detecting Previously Unseen Outbreaks with Novel Symptom Patterns


Commonly used syndromic surveillance methods based on the spatial scan statistic first classify disease cases into broad, pre-existing symptom categories ("prodromes") such as respiratory or fever, then detect spatial clusters where the recent case count of some prodrome is unexpectedly high. Novel emerging infections may have very specific and anomalous symptoms which should be easy to detect even if the number of cases is small. However, typical spatial scan approaches may fail to detect a novel outbreak if the resulting cases are not classified to any known prodrome. Alternatively, detection may be delayed because cases are lumped into an overly broad prodrome, diluting the outbreak signal.



We propose a new text-based spatial event detection method, the semantic scan statistic, which uses free-text data from Emergency Department chief complaints to detect, localize, and characterize newly emerging outbreaks of disease.

Submitted by elamb on