Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The man who forecast 2.2 million US deaths

When it came to dealing with an unexpected surge in infections and deaths from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19 symptoms), federal and state policymakers understandably sought guidance from competing epidemiological computer models. On March 16, a 20-page report from Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial College London quickly gathered enormous attention by producing enormous death estimates. Dr. Ferguson had previously publicized almost equally sensational death estimates from mad cow disease, bird flu and swine flu.
 - Alan Reynolds, "How One Model Simulated 2.2 Million U.S. Deaths from COVID-19," Cato Institute, April 21, 2020 (stress added)

Six questions that Neil Ferguson should be asked | The Spectator - Steerpike:

April 27, 2020 - "Below are six questions Steerpike would like to see Neil Ferguson pressed on the next time he embarks on a media round:

"In 2005, Ferguson said that up to 200 million people could be killed from bird flu. He told the Guardian that ‘around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak… There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably.’ In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease between 2003 and 2009. How did he get this forecast so wrong?

"In 2009, Ferguson and his Imperial team predicted that swine flu had a case fatality rate 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. His most likely estimate was that the mortality rate was 0.4 per cent. A government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice, said a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was that the disease would lead to 65,000 UK deaths. In the end swine flu killed 457 people in the UK and had a death rate of just 0.026 per cent in those infected. Why did the Imperial team overestimate the fatality of the disease?....

"In 2001 the Imperial team produced modelling on foot and mouth disease that suggested that animals in neighbouring farms should be culled, even if there was no evidence of infection. This influenced government policy and led to the total culling of more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs – with a cost to the UK economy estimated at £10 billion. It has been claimed by experts such as Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, that Ferguson’s modelling on foot and mouth was ‘severely flawed’ and made a ‘serious error’ by ‘ignoring the species composition of farms,’ and the fact that the disease spread faster between different species. Does Ferguson acknowledge that his modelling in 2001 was flawed and if so, has he taken steps to avoid future mistakes?

"In 2002, Ferguson predicted that between 50 and 50,000 people would likely die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. He also predicted that number could rise to 150,000 if there was a sheep epidemic as well. In the UK, there have only been 177 deaths from BSE. Does Ferguson believe that his ‘worst-case scenario’ in this case was too high? If so, what lessons has he learnt when it comes to his modelling since?

"Ferguson’s disease modelling for Covid-19 has been criticised by experts such as John Ioannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, who has said that: ‘The Imperial College study has been done by a highly competent team of modellers. However, some of the major assumptions and estimates that are built in the calculations seem to be substantially inflated.’ Has the Imperial team’s Covid-19 model been subject to outside scrutiny from other experts, and are the team questioning their own assumptions used? What safeguards are in place?

"On 22 March, Ferguson said that Imperial College London’s model of the Covid-19 disease is based on undocumented, 13-year-old computer code, that was intended to be used for a feared influenza pandemic, rather than a coronavirus. How many assumptions in the Imperial model are still based on influenza and is there any risk that the modelling is flawed because of these assumptions?"

Read more: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/six-questions-that-neil-ferguson-should-be-asked/amp

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