Nowcasting and forecasting the 2022 U.S. mpox outbreak: Support for public health decision making and lessons learned

Elsevier, Epidemics, Volume 47, June 2024
Charniga K., Madewell Z.J., Masters N.B., Asher J., Nakazawa Y., Spicknall I.H.

In June of 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Mpox Response wanted timely answers to important epidemiological questions which can now be answered more effectively through infectious disease modeling. Infectious disease models have shown to be valuable tools for decision making during outbreaks; however, model complexity often makes communicating the results and limitations of models to decision makers difficult. We performed nowcasting and forecasting for the 2022 mpox outbreak in the United States using the R package EpiNow2. We generated nowcasts/forecasts at the national level, by Census region, and for jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of mpox cases. Modeling results were shared for situational awareness within the CDC Mpox Response and publicly on the CDC website. We retrospectively evaluated forecast predictions at four key phases (early, exponential growth, peak, and decline) during the outbreak using three metrics, the weighted interval score, mean absolute error, and prediction interval coverage. We compared the performance of EpiNow2 with a naïve Bayesian generalized linear model (GLM). The EpiNow2 model had less probabilistic error than the GLM during every outbreak phase except for the early phase. We share our experiences with an existing tool for nowcasting/forecasting and highlight areas of improvement for the development of future tools. We also reflect on lessons learned regarding data quality issues and adapting modeling results for different audiences.