The novel coronavirus termed as covid-19 has taken the world by its crutches affecting innumerable lives with devastating impact on the global economy and public health. One of the major ways to control the spread of this disease is identification in the initial stage, so that isolation and treatment could be initiated. Due to the lack of automated auxiliary diagnostic medical tools, availability of lesser sensitivity testing kits, and limited availability of healthcare professionals, the pandemic has spread like wildfire across the world. Certain recent findings state that chest X-ray scans contain salient information regarding the onset of the virus, the information can be analyzed so that the diagnosis and treatment can be initiated at an earlier stage. This is where artificial intelligence meets the diagnostic capabilities of experienced clinicians. The objective of the proposed research is to contribute towards fighting the global pandemic by developing an automated image analysis module for identifying covid-19 affected chest X-ray scans by employing an optimized Convolution Neural Network (CNN) model. The aforementioned objective is achieved in the following manner by developing three classification models, (i) ensemble of ResNet 50-Error Correcting Output Code (ECOC) model, (ii) CNN optimized using Grey Wolf Optimizer (GWO) and, (iii) CNN optimized using Whale Optimization + BAT algorithm. The novelty of the proposed method lies in the automatic tuning of hyper parameters considering a hierarchy of MultiLayer Perceptron (MLP), feature extraction, and optimization ensemble. A 100% classification accuracy was obtained in classifying covid-19 images. Classification accuracy of 98.8% and 96% were obtained for dataset 1 and dataset 2 respectively for classification into covid-19, normal, and viral pneumonia cases. The proposed method can be adopted in a clinical setting for assisting radiologists and it can also be employed in remote areas to facilitate the faster screening of affected patients.
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