Multivariate syndromic surveillance for cattle diseases: Epidemic simulation and algorithm performance evaluation

Céline Faverjon*, Luís Pedro Carmo, John Berezowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Multivariate Syndromic Surveillance (SyS) systems that simultaneously assess and combine information from different data sources are especially useful for strengthening surveillance systems for early detection of infectious disease epidemics. Despite the strong motivation for implementing multivariate SyS and there being numerous methods reported, the number of operational multivariate SyS systems in veterinary medicine is still very small. One possible reason is that assessing the performance of such surveillance systems remains challenging because field epidemic data are often unavailable. The objective of this study is to demonstrate a practical multivariate event detection method (directionally sensitive multivariate control charts) that can be easily applied in livestock disease SyS, using syndrome time series data from the Swiss cattle population as an example. We present a standardized method for simulating multivariate epidemics of different diseases using four diseases as examples: Bovine Virus Diarrhea (BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bluetongue virus (BTV) and Schmallenberg virus (SV). Two directional multivariate control chart algorithms, Multivariate Exponentially Weighted Moving Average (MEWMA) and Multivariate Cumulative Sum (MCUSUM) were compared. The two algorithms were evaluated using 12 syndrome time series extracted from two Swiss national databases. The two algorithms were able to detect all simulated epidemics around 4.5 months after the start of the epidemic, with a specificity of 95%. However, the results varied depending on the algorithm and the disease. The MEWMA algorithm always detected epidemics earlier than the MCUSUM, and epidemics of IBR and SV were detected earlier than epidemics of BVD and BTV. Our results show that the two directional multivariate control charts are promising methods for combining information from multiple time series for early detection of subtle changes in time series from a population without producing an unreasonable amount of false alarms. The approach that we used for simulating multivariate epidemics is relatively easy to implement and could be used in other situations where real epidemic data are unavailable. We believe that our study results can support the implementation and assessment of multivariate SyS systems in animal health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104778
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Directional multivariate control charts
  • Epidemic simulation
  • Syndromic surveillance
  • Time series


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