Background. In 2008, Rwanda established an influenza sentinel surveillance (ISS) system to describe the epidemiology of influenza and monitor for the emergence of novel influenza A viruses. We report surveillance results from August 2008 to July 2010.
Methods. We conducted ISS by monitoring patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) at 6 hospitals. For each case, demographic and clinical data, 1 nasopharyngeal specimen, and 1 oropharyngeal specimen were collected. Specimens were tested by real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction for influenza A and B viruses at the National Reference Laboratory in Rwanda.
Results. A total of 1916 cases (945 ILI and 971 SARI) were identified. Of these, 29.2% (n = 276) of ILI and 10.4% (n = 101) of SARI cases tested positive for influenza. Of the total influenza-positive cases (n = 377), 71.8% (n = 271) were A(H1N1) pdm09, 5.6% (n = 21) influenza A(H1), 7.7% (n = 29) influenza A(H3), 1.6% (n = 6) influenza A (unsubtyped), and 13.3% (n = 50) influenza B. The percentage of positivity for influenza viruses was highest in October–November and February–March, during peaks in rainfall.
Conclusions. The implementation of ISS enabled characterization of the epidemiology and seasonality of influenza in Rwanda for the first time. Future efforts should determine the population-based influenza burden to inform interventions such as targeted vaccination.