Local implementation of a syndromic influenza surveillance system using emergency department data in Santander, Spain

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Abstract

Background

We assessed the local implementation of syndromic surveillance (SyS) as part of the European project ‘System for Information on, Detection and Analysis of Risks and Threats to Health’ in Santander, Spain.

Methods

We applied a cumulative sum algorithm on emergency department (ED) chief complaints for influenza-like illness in the seasons 2010–11 and 2011–12. We fine tuned the algorithm using a receiver operating characteristic analysis to identify the optimal trade-off of sensitivity and specificity and defined alert criteria. We assessed the timeliness of the SyS system to detect the onset of the influenza season.

Results

The ED data correlated with the sentinel data. With the best algorithm settings we achieved 70/63% sensitivity and 89/95% specificity for 2010–11/2011–12. At least 2 consecutive days of signals defined an alert. In 2010–11 the SyS system alerted 1 week before the sentinel system and in 2011–12 in the same week. The data from the ED is available on a daily basis providing an advantage in timeliness compared with the weekly sentinel data.

Conclusions

ED-based SyS in Santander complements sentinel influenza surveillance by providing timely information. Local fine tuning and definition of alert criteria are recommended to enhance validity.

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