Similar to outbreaks of many other infectious diseases, success in controlling the novel 2019 coronavirus infection requires a timely and accurate monitoring of the epidemic, particularly during its early period with rather limited data while the need for information increases explosively.
In this study, we used a second derivative model to characterize the coronavirus epidemic in China with cumulatively diagnosed cases during the first 2 months. The analysis was further enhanced by an exponential model with a close-population assumption. This model was built with the data and used to assess the detection rate during the study period, considering the differences between the true infections, detectable and detected cases.
Results from the second derivative modeling suggest the coronavirus epidemic as nonlinear and chaotic in nature. Although it emerged gradually, the epidemic was highly responsive to massive interventions initiated on January 21, 2020, as indicated by results from both second derivative and exponential modeling analyses. The epidemic started to decelerate immediately after the massive actions. The results derived from our analysis signaled the decline of the epidemic 14 days before it eventually occurred on February 4, 2020. Study findings further signaled an accelerated decline in the epidemic starting in 14 days on February 18, 2020.
The coronavirus epidemic appeared to be nonlinear and chaotic, and was responsive to effective interventions. The methods used in this study can be applied in surveillance to inform and encourage the general public, public health professionals, clinicians and decision-makers to take coordinative and collaborative efforts to control the epidemic.