Building Influenza Surveillance Pyramids in Near Real Time, Australia - Vol. 19 No. 11 - November 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC
Volume 19, Number 11—November 2013
Building Influenza Surveillance Pyramids in Near Real Time, Australia
Data from several influenza surveillance systems are integrated in Australia each year (1–3) to create a timely and accurate picture of influenza activity. Each surveillance method has its strengths and limitations. The online national Flutracking surveillance system contributes to Australian influenza surveillance by providing weekly community-level influenza-like illness (ILI) attack rates not biased by health-seeking behavior and clinician-testing practices (4–7). The Flutracking surveillance system has been incorporated into the weekly national Australian influenza report since 2009 (3) to 1) compare ILI syndrome rates of vaccinated and unvaccinated participants to detect interpandemic and pandemic influenza and provide early confirmation of vaccine effectiveness or failure; 2) provide consistent surveillance of influenza activity across all jurisdictions and over time; and 3) enable year-to-year comparison of the timing, incidence, and severity of influenza.
AbstractA timely measure of circulating influenza virus severity has been elusive. Flutracking, the Australian online influenza-like illness surveillance system, was used to construct a surveillance pyramid in near real time for 2011/2012 participants and demonstrated a striking difference between years. Such pyramids will facilitate rapid estimation of attack rates and disease severity.
In 2011, new questions were added to the Flutracking surveillance system to document health-seeking behavior and laboratory confirmation of influenza infection among participants. This enabled regular timely calculation of influenza surveillance pyramids to examine the proportion of participants with ILI that sought medical care, the type of medical care sought, and the proportion tested for, and confirmed to have, influenza infection. Surveillance pyramids provide a model for estimating the relative attrition as patients transition the multiple steps for an episode of illness to be registered in surveillance data (8). Flutracking data for 2011 and 2012 were used to investigate whether a near real time severity measure for circulating influenza strains could be determined.
The Flutracking surveillance system was in operation for 24 weeks in 2011 from the week ending May 8 to the week ending October 16, and 24 weeks in 2012 from the week ending May 6 to the week ending October 14. Recruitment methods in 2011 and 2012 were similar to those used in 2007–2010 (4).
The weekly survey questions in 2011 and 2012 were similar to those used in 2007–2010 (4). However, in 2011, the following questions were added to the weekly questionnaire:
Did participants reporting cough and fever seek health advice because of their illness? Response options for type of advice sought included an emergency department/after-hours service, general practitioner, 24-hour health advice telephone hotline, advice from other medical professional, or admitted as a hospital inpatient. Did a doctor or nurse tell the participant, who sought health advice, that they had influenza or another illness? Did you have an influenza test (for those who sought health advice)? If so, was it positive for influenza?