New Method for Real Time Influenza Surveillance in Primary Care: A Wisconsin Research and Education Network (WREN) Supported Study

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The goal of public health infectious disease surveillance systems is to provide accurate laboratory results in near-real time. When it comes to influenza surveillance, most current systems are encumbered with inherent delays encountered in the real-life chaos of medical practice. To combat this, we implemented and tested near-real-time surveillance using a rapid influenza detection test (RIDT) coupled with immediate, wireless transmission of results to public health entities.


A network of 19 primary care clinics across Wisconsin were recruited, including 4 sites already involved in ongoing influenza surveillance and 15 sites that were new to surveillance activities. Each site was provided with a Quidel Sofia Influenza A+B RIDT analyzer attached to a wireless router. Influenza test results, along with patient age, were transmitted immediately to a cloud-based server, automatically compiled, and forwarded to the surveillance team daily. Weekly counts of positive influenza A and B cases were compared with positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) detections from an independent surveillance system within the state.


Following Institutional Review Board (IRB) and institutional approvals, we recruited 19 surveillance sites, installed equipment, and trained staff within 4 months. Of the 1119 cases tested between September 15, 2013 and June 28, 2014, 316 were positive for influenza. The system provided early detection of the influenza outbreak in Wisconsin. The influenza peak between January 12 and 25, 2014, as well as the epidemic curve, closely matched that derived from the established PCR laboratory network (r = 0.927;P< .001).


A network of influenza RIDTs with wireless transmission of results approximated the long-sought-after goal of real-time influenza surveillance. Results from the initial year strongly support this approach to highly accurate and timely influenza surveillance.

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