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Online surveillance of multivariate small area disease data: A Bayesian approach


The ability to rapidly detect any substantial change in disease incidence is of critical importance to facilitate timely public health response and, consequently, to reduce undue morbidity and mortality. Unlike testing methods (1, 2), modeling for spatio-temporal disease surveillance is relatively recent, and this is a very active area of statistical research (3). Models describing the behavior of diseases in space and time allow covariate effects to be estimated and provide better insight into etiology, spread, prediction and control. Most spatio-temporal models have been developed for retrospective analyses of complete data sets (4). However, data in public health registries accumulate over time and sequential analyses of all the data collected so far is a key concept to early detection of disease outbreaks. When the analysis of spatially aggregated data on multiple diseases is of interest, the use of multivariate models accounting for correlations across both diseases and locations may provide a better description of the data and enhance the comprehension of disease dynamics.


This study deals with the development of statistical methodology for on-line surveillance of small area disease data in the form of counts. As surveillance systems are often focused on more than one disease within a predefined area, we extend the surveillance procedure to the analysis of multiple diseases. The multivariate approach allows for inclusion of correlation across diseases and, consequently, increases the outbreak detection capability of the methodology

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