Utilizing Syndromic Surveillance Data for Estimating Levels of Influenza Circulation

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Abstract

The availability of weekly Web-based participatory surveillance data on self-reported influenza-like illness (ILI), defined here as self-reported fever and cough/sore throat, over several influenza seasons allows for estimation of the incidence of influenza infection in population cohorts. We demonstrate this using syndromic data reported through the Influenzanet surveillance platform in the Netherlands. We used the 2011–2012 influenza season, a low-incidence season that began late, to assess the baseline rates of self-reported ILI during periods of low influenza circulation, and we used ILI rates above that baseline level from the 2012–1013 season, a major influenza season, to estimate influenza attack rates for that period. The latter conversion required estimates of age-specific probabilities of self-reported ILI given influenza (Flu) infection (P(ILI | Flu)), which were obtained from separate data (extracted from Hong Kong, China, household studies). For the 2012–2013 influenza season in the Netherlands, we estimated combined influenza A/B attack rates of 29.2% (95% credible interval (CI): 21.6, 37.9) among survey participants aged 20–49 years, 28.3% (95% CI: 20.7, 36.8) among participants aged 50–60 years, and 5.9% (95% CI: 0.4, 11.8) among participants aged ≥61 years. Estimates of influenza attack rates can be obtained in other settings using analogous, multiseason surveillance data on self-reported ILI together with separate, context-specific estimates of P(ILI | Flu).

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