A Bayesian network model for spatial event surveillance

Jiang X, Neill DB, Cooper GF.  A Bayesian network model for spatial event surveillance. International Journal of Approximate Reasoning (2010) 51:224-239.  doi: ttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijar.2009.01.001. Publication not directly supported by NIH.

Methods for spatial cluster detection attempt to locate spatial subregions of some larger region where the count of some occurrences is higher than expected. Event surveillance consists of monitoring a region in order to detect emerging patterns that are indicative of some event of interest. In spatial event surveillance, we search for emerging patterns in spatial subregions.

A well-known method for spatial cluster detection is Kulldorff’s [M. Kulldorff, A spatial scan statistic, Communications in Statistics: Theory and Methods 26 (6) (1997)] spatial scan statistic, which directly analyzes the counts of occurrences in the subregions. Neill et al. [D.B. Neill, A.W. Moore, G.F. Cooper, A Bayesian spatial scan statistic, Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) 18 (2005)] developed a Bayesian spatial scan statistic called BSS, which also directly analyzes the counts.

We developed a new Bayesian-network-based spatial scan statistic, called BNetScan, which models the relationships among the events of interest and the observable events using a Bayesian network. BNetScan is an entity-based Bayesian network that models the underlying state and observable variables for each individual in a population.

We compared the performance of BNetScan to Kulldorff’s spatial scan statistic and BSS using simulated outbreaks of influenza and cryptosporidiosis injected into real Emergency Department data from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It is an open question whether we can obtain acceptable results using a Bayesian network if the probability distributions in the network do not closely reflect reality, and thus, we examined the robustness of BNetScan relative to the probability distributions used to generate the data in the experiments. Our results indicate that BNetScan outperforms the other methods and its performance is robust relative to the probability distribution that is used to generate the data.


  • Bayesian network;
  • Spatial cluster detection;
  • Event surveillance;
  • Spatial event surveillance;
  • Outbreak detection
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