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In Journal of global health

Background : Internet search engine data, such as Google Trends, was shown to be correlated with the incidence of COVID-19, but only in several countries. We aim to develop a model from a small number of countries to predict the epidemic alert level in all the countries worldwide.

Methods : The "interest over time" and "interest by region" Google Trends data of Coronavirus, pneumonia, and six COVID symptom-related terms were searched. The daily incidence of COVID-19 from 10 January to 23 April 2020 of 202 countries was retrieved from the World Health Organization. Three alert levels were defined. Ten weeks' data from 20 countries were used for training with machine learning algorithms. The features were selected according to the correlation and importance. The model was then tested on 2830 samples of 202 countries.

Results : Our model performed well in 154 (76.2%) countries, of which each had no more than four misclassified samples. In these 154 countries, the accuracy was 0.8133, and the kappa coefficient was 0.6828. While in all 202 countries, the accuracy was 0.7527, and the kappa coefficient was 0.5841. The proposed algorithm based on Random Forest Classification and nine features performed better compared to other machine learning methods and the models with different numbers of features.

Conclusions : Our result suggested that the model developed from 20 countries with Google Trends data and Random Forest Classification can be applied to predict the epidemic alert levels of most countries worldwide.

Peng Yuanyuan, Li Cuilian, Rong Yibiao, Chen Xinjian, Chen Haoyu