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1.  Monitoring the Impact of Influenza by Age: Emergency Department Fever and Respiratory Complaint Surveillance in New York City 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e247.
Background
The importance of understanding age when estimating the impact of influenza on hospitalizations and deaths has been well described, yet existing surveillance systems have not made adequate use of age-specific data. Monitoring influenza-related morbidity using electronic health data may provide timely and detailed insight into the age-specific course, impact and epidemiology of seasonal drift and reassortment epidemic viruses. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of emergency department (ED) chief complaint data for measuring influenza-attributable morbidity by age and by predominant circulating virus.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed electronically reported ED fever and respiratory chief complaint and viral surveillance data in New York City (NYC) during the 2001–2002 through 2005–2006 influenza seasons, and inferred dominant circulating viruses from national surveillance reports. We estimated influenza-attributable impact as observed visits in excess of a model-predicted baseline during influenza periods, and epidemic timing by threshold and cross correlation. We found excess fever and respiratory ED visits occurred predominantly among school-aged children (8.5 excess ED visits per 1,000 children aged 5–17 y) with little or no impact on adults during the early-2002 B/Victoria-lineage epidemic; increased fever and respiratory ED visits among children younger than 5 y during respiratory syncytial virus-predominant periods preceding epidemic influenza; and excess ED visits across all ages during the 2003–2004 (9.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) and 2004–2005 (5.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage epidemics, with the relative impact shifted within and between seasons from younger to older ages. During each influenza epidemic period in the study, ED visits were increased among school-aged children, and each epidemic peaked among school-aged children before other impacted age groups.
Conclusions
Influenza-related morbidity in NYC was highly age- and strain-specific. The impact of reemerging B/Victoria-lineage influenza was focused primarily on school-aged children born since the virus was last widespread in the US, while epidemic A/Fujian-lineage influenza affected all age groups, consistent with a novel antigenic variant. The correspondence between predominant circulating viruses and excess ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths shows that excess fever and respiratory ED visits provide a reliable surrogate measure of incident influenza-attributable morbidity. The highly age-specific impact of influenza by subtype and strain suggests that greater age detail be incorporated into ongoing surveillance. Influenza morbidity surveillance using electronic data currently available in many jurisdictions can provide timely and representative information about the age-specific epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Don Olson and colleagues report that influenza-related morbidity in NYC from 2001 to 2006 was highly age- and strain-specific and conclude that surveillance using electronic data can provide timely and representative information about the epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza (a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways) send millions of people to their beds every winter. Most recover quickly, but flu epidemics often disrupt daily life and can cause many deaths. Seasonal epidemics occur because influenza viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the human immune system recognizes. Consequently, an immune response that combats influenza one year may provide partial or no protection the following year. Occasionally, an influenza virus with large antigenic changes emerges that triggers an influenza pandemic, or global epidemic. To help prepare for both seasonal epidemics and pandemics, public-health officials monitor influenza-related illness and death, investigate unusual outbreaks of respiratory diseases, and characterize circulating strains of the influenza virus. While traditional influenza-related illness surveillance systems rely on relatively slow voluntary clinician reporting of cases with influenza-like illness symptoms, some jurisdictions have also started to use “syndromic” surveillance systems. These use electronic health-related data rather than clinical impression to track illness in the community. For example, increased visits to emergency departments for fever or respiratory (breathing) problems can provide an early warning of an influenza outbreak.
Why Was This Study Done?
Rapid illness surveillance systems have been shown to detect flu outbreaks earlier than is possible through monitoring deaths from pneumonia or influenza. Increases in visits to emergency departments by children for fever or respiratory problems can provide an even earlier indicator. Researchers have not previously examined in detail how fever and respiratory problems by age group correlate with the predominant circulating respiratory viruses. Knowing details like this would help public-health officials detect and respond to influenza epidemics and pandemics. In this study, the researchers have used data collected between 2001 and 2006 in New York City emergency departments to investigate these aspects of syndromic surveillance for influenza.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed emergency department visits categorized broadly into a fever and respiratory syndrome (which provides an estimate of the total visits attributable to influenza) or more narrowly into an influenza-like illness syndrome (which specifically indicates fever with cough and/or sore throat) with laboratory-confirmed influenza surveillance data. They found that emergency department visits were highest during peak influenza periods, and that the affect on different age groups varied depending on the predominant circulating viruses. In early 2002, an epidemic reemergence of B/Victoria-lineage influenza viruses caused increased visits among school-aged children, while adult visits did not increase. By contrast, during the 2003–2004 season, when the predominant virus was an A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage influenza virus, excess visits occurred in all age groups, though the relative increase was greatest and earliest among school-aged children. During periods of documented respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulation, increases in fever and respiratory emergency department visits occurred in children under five years of age regardless of influenza circulation. Finally, the researchers found that excess visits to emergency departments for fever and respiratory symptoms preceded deaths from pneumonia or influenza by about two weeks.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that excess emergency department visits for fever and respiratory symptoms can provide a reliable and timely surrogate measure of illness due to influenza. They also provide new insights into how different influenza viruses affect people of different ages and how the timing and progression of each influenza season differs. These results, based on data collected over only five years in one city, might not be generalizable to other settings or years, warn the researchers. However, the present results strongly suggest that the routine monitoring of influenza might be improved by using electronic health-related data, such as emergency department visit data, and by examining it specifically by age group. Furthermore, by showing that school-aged children can be the first people to be affected by seasonal influenza, these results highlight the important role this age group plays in community-wide transmission of influenza, an observation that could influence the implementation of public-health strategies such as vaccination that aim to protect communities during influenza epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247.
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on influenza for patients and health professionals and on influenza surveillance in the US (in English, Spanish, and several other languages)
• World Health Organization has a fact sheet on influenza and on global surveillance for influenza (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
• The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on flu (in English and Spanish)
• US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a feature called “focus on flu”
• A detailed report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention titled “Framework for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems for Early Detection of Outbreaks” includes a simple description of syndromic surveillance
• The International Society for Disease Surveillance has a collaborative syndromic surveillance public wiki
• The Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory includes working papers and discussions by cultural anthropologists studying modern vital systems security and syndromic surveillance
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247
PMCID: PMC1939858  PMID: 17683196
2.  Characterization of Regional Influenza Seasonality Patterns in China and Implications for Vaccination Strategies: Spatio-Temporal Modeling of Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001552.
Cécile Viboud and colleagues describe epidemiological patterns of influenza incidence across China to support the design of a national vaccination program.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The complexity of influenza seasonal patterns in the inter-tropical zone impedes the establishment of effective routine immunization programs. China is a climatologically and economically diverse country, which has yet to establish a national influenza vaccination program. Here we characterize the diversity of influenza seasonality in China and make recommendations to guide future vaccination programs.
Methods and Findings
We compiled weekly reports of laboratory-confirmed influenza A and B infections from sentinel hospitals in cities representing 30 Chinese provinces, 2005–2011, and data on population demographics, mobility patterns, socio-economic, and climate factors. We applied linear regression models with harmonic terms to estimate influenza seasonal characteristics, including the amplitude of annual and semi-annual periodicities, their ratio, and peak timing. Hierarchical Bayesian modeling and hierarchical clustering were used to identify predictors of influenza seasonal characteristics and define epidemiologically-relevant regions. The annual periodicity of influenza A epidemics increased with latitude (mean amplitude of annual cycle standardized by mean incidence, 140% [95% CI 128%–151%] in the north versus 37% [95% CI 27%–47%] in the south, p<0.0001). Epidemics peaked in January–February in Northern China (latitude ≥33°N) and April–June in southernmost regions (latitude <27°N). Provinces at intermediate latitudes experienced dominant semi-annual influenza A periodicity with peaks in January–February and June–August (periodicity ratio >0.6 in provinces located within 27.4°N–31.3°N, slope of latitudinal gradient with latitude −0.016 [95% CI −0.025 to −0.008], p<0.001). In contrast, influenza B activity predominated in colder months throughout most of China. Climate factors were the strongest predictors of influenza seasonality, including minimum temperature, hours of sunshine, and maximum rainfall. Our main study limitations include a short surveillance period and sparse influenza sampling in some of the southern provinces.
Conclusions
Regional-specific influenza vaccination strategies would be optimal in China; in particular, annual campaigns should be initiated 4–6 months apart in Northern and Southern China. Influenza surveillance should be strengthened in mid-latitude provinces, given the complexity of seasonal patterns in this region. More broadly, our findings are consistent with the role of climatic factors on influenza transmission dynamics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people worldwide catch influenza, a viral disease of the airways. Most infected individuals recover quickly but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. These epidemics occur because antigenic drift—frequent small changes in the viral proteins to which the immune system responds—means that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual vaccination with a mixture of killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains boosts this natural immunity and greatly reduces the risk of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs. Because the immune response induced by vaccination decays within 4–8 months of vaccination and because of antigenic drift, it is important that these programs are initiated only a few weeks before the onset of local influenza activity. Thus, vaccination starts in early autumn in temperate zones (regions of the world that have a mild climate, part way between a tropical and a polar climate), because seasonal influenza outbreaks occur in the winter months when low humidity and low temperatures favor the transmission of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unlike temperate regions, seasonal influenza patterns are very diverse in tropical countries, which lie between latitudes 23.5°N and 23.5°S, and in the subtropical countries slightly north and south of these latitudes. In some of these countries, there is year-round influenza activity, in others influenza epidemics occur annually or semi-annually (twice yearly). This complexity, which is perhaps driven by rainfall fluctuations, complicates the establishment of effective routine immunization programs in tropical and subtropical countries. Take China as an example. Before a national influenza vaccination program can be established in this large, climatologically diverse country, public-health experts need a clear picture of influenza seasonality across the country. Here, the researchers use spatio-temporal modeling of influenza surveillance data to characterize the seasonality of influenza A and B (the two types of influenza that usually cause epidemics) in China, to assess the role of putative drivers of seasonality, and to identify broad epidemiological regions (areas with specific patterns of disease) that could be used as a basis to optimize the timing of future Chinese vaccination programs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected together the weekly reports of laboratory-confirmed influenza prepared by the Chinese national sentinel hospital-based surveillance network between 2005 and 2011, data on population size and density, mobility patterns, and socio-economic factors, and daily meteorological data for the cities participating in the surveillance network. They then used various statistical modeling approaches to estimate influenza seasonal characteristics, to assess predictors of influenza seasonal characteristics, and to identify epidemiologically relevant regions. These analyses indicate that, over the study period, northern provinces (latitudes greater than 33°N) experienced winter epidemics of influenza A in January–February, southern provinces (latitudes less than 27°N) experienced peak viral activity in the spring (April–June), and provinces at intermediate latitudes experienced semi-annual epidemic cycles with infection peaks in January–February and June–August. By contrast, influenza B activity predominated in the colder months throughout China. The researchers also report that minimum temperatures, hours of sunshine, and maximum rainfall were the strongest predictors of influenza seasonality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that influenza seasonality in China varies between regions and between influenza virus types and suggest that, as in other settings, some of these variations might be associated with specific climatic factors. The accuracy of these findings is limited by the short surveillance period, by sparse surveillance data from some southern and mid-latitude provinces, and by some aspects of the modeling approach used in the study. Further surveillance studies need to be undertaken to confirm influenza seasonality patterns in China. Overall, these findings suggest that, to optimize routine influenza vaccination in China, it will be necessary to stagger the timing of vaccination over three broad geographical regions. More generally, given that there is growing interest in rolling out national influenza immunization programs in low- and middle-income countries, these findings highlight the importance of ensuring that vaccination strategies are optimized by taking into account local disease patterns.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001552.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Steven Riley
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about seasonal influenza and about influenza vaccination
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza (in several languages) and on influenza surveillance and monitoring
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza, including information about vaccination; its website contains a short video about personal experiences of influenza.
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal influenza and vaccination
Information about the Chinese National Influenza Center, which is part of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention: and which runs influenza surveillance in China, is available (in English and Chinese)
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza and about vaccination (in English and Spanish)
A recent PLOS Pathogens Research Article by James D. Tamerius et al. investigates environmental predictors of seasonal influenza epidemics across temperate and tropical climates
A study published in PLOS ONE by Wyller Alencar de Mello et al. indicates that Brazil, like China, requires staggered timing of vaccination from Northern to Southern states to account for different timings of influenza activity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001552
PMCID: PMC3864611  PMID: 24348203
3.  Characterizing the Epidemiology of the 2009 Influenza A/H1N1 Pandemic in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000436.
Gerardo Chowell and colleagues address whether school closures and other social distancing strategies were successful in reducing pandemic flu transmission in Mexico by analyzing the age- and state-specific incidence of influenza morbidity and mortality in 32 Mexican states.
Background
Mexico's local and national authorities initiated an intense public health response during the early stages of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic. In this study we analyzed the epidemiological patterns of the pandemic during April–December 2009 in Mexico and evaluated the impact of nonmedical interventions, school cycles, and demographic factors on influenza transmission.
Methods and Findings
We used influenza surveillance data compiled by the Mexican Institute for Social Security, representing 40% of the population, to study patterns in influenza-like illness (ILIs) hospitalizations, deaths, and case-fatality rate by pandemic wave and geographical region. We also estimated the reproduction number (R) on the basis of the growth rate of daily cases, and used a transmission model to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation strategies initiated during the spring pandemic wave. A total of 117,626 ILI cases were identified during April–December 2009, of which 30.6% were tested for influenza, and 23.3% were positive for the influenza A/H1N1 pandemic virus. A three-wave pandemic profile was identified, with an initial wave in April–May (Mexico City area), a second wave in June–July (southeastern states), and a geographically widespread third wave in August–December. The median age of laboratory confirmed ILI cases was ∼18 years overall and increased to ∼31 years during autumn (p<0.0001). The case-fatality ratio among ILI cases was 1.2% overall, and highest (5.5%) among people over 60 years. The regional R estimates were 1.8–2.1, 1.6–1.9, and 1.2–1.3 for the spring, summer, and fall waves, respectively. We estimate that the 18-day period of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented in the greater Mexico City area was associated with a 29%–37% reduction in influenza transmission in spring 2009. In addition, an increase in R was observed in late May and early June in the southeast states, after mandatory school suspension resumed and before summer vacation started. State-specific fall pandemic waves began 2–5 weeks after school reopened for the fall term, coinciding with an age shift in influenza cases.
Conclusions
We documented three spatially heterogeneous waves of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic virus in Mexico, which were characterized by a relatively young age distribution of cases. Our study highlights the importance of school cycles on the transmission dynamics of this pandemic influenza strain and suggests that school closure and other mitigation measures could be useful to mitigate future influenza pandemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
From June 2009 to August 2010, the world was officially (according to specific World Health Organization [WHO] criteria—WHO phase 6 pandemic alert) in the grip of an Influenza A pandemic with a new strain of the H1N1 virus. The epidemic in Mexico, which had the second confirmed global case of H1N1 virus was first noted in early April 2009, when reports of respiratory hospitalizations and deaths among 62 young adults in Mexico alerted local health officials to the occurrence of atypical rates of respiratory illness. In line with its inter-institutional National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan, the Ministry of Health cancelled school attendance in the greater Mexico City area on April 24 and expanded these measures to the rest the country three days later. The Ministry of Health then implemented in Mexico City other “social distancing” strategies such as closing cinemas and restaurants and cancelling large public gatherings.
Why Was This Study Done?
School closures and other intense social distancing strategies can be very disruptive to the population, but as yet it is uncertain whether these measures were successful in reducing disease transmission. In addition, there have been no studies concentrating on recurrent pandemic waves in Mexico. So in this study the authors addressed these issues by analyzing the age- and state-specific incidence of influenza morbidity and mortality in 32 Mexican States and quantified the association between local influenza transmission rates, school cycles, and demographic factors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the epidemiological surveillance system of the Mexican Institute for Social Security—a Mexican health system that covers private sector workers and their families, a group representative of the general population, that comprises roughly 40% of the Mexican population (107 million individuals), with a network of 1,099 primary health care units and 259 hospitals nationwide. Then the researchers compiled state- and age-specific time series of incident influenza-like illness and H1N1 influenza cases by day of symptom onset to analyze the geographic dissemination patterns of the pandemic across Mexico and defined three temporally distinct pandemic waves in 2009: spring (April 1–May 20), summer (May 21–August 1), and fall (August 2–December 31). The researchers then applied a mathematical model of influenza transmission to daily case data to assess the effectiveness of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented during April 24–May 11, in reducing influenza transmission rates.
The Mexican Institute for Social Security reported a total of 117,626 people with influenza-like illness from April 1 to December 31, 2009, of which 36,044 were laboratory tested (30.6%) and 27,440 (23.3%) were confirmed with H1N1 influenza. During this period, 1,370 people with influenza-like illness died of which 585 (1.5 per 100,000) were confirmed to have H1N1 influenza. The median age of people with laboratory confirmed influenza like illness (H1N1) was 18 years overall but increased to 31 years during the autumn wave. The overall case-fatality ratio among people with influenza like illness was 1.2%, but highest (5.5%) among people over 60 years. The researchers found that the 18-day period of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented in the greater Mexico City area was associated with a substantial (29%–37%) reduction in influenza transmission in spring 2009 but increased in late May and early June in the southeast states, after mandatory school suspension resumed and before summer vacation started. State-specific pandemic waves began 2–5 weeks after school reopened for the fall term, coinciding with an age shift in influenza cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the age distribution of pandemic influenza morbidity was greater in younger age groups, while the risk of severe disease was skewed towards older age groups, and that there were substantial geographical variation in pandemic patterns across Mexico, in part related to population size. But most importantly, these findings support the effectiveness of early mitigation efforts including mandatory school closures and cancellation of large public gatherings, reinforcing the importance of school cycles in the transmission of pandemic influenza. This analysis increases understanding of the age and transmission patterns of the Mexican 2009 influenza pandemic at various geographic scales, which is crucial for designing more efficient public health interventions against future influenza pandemics.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000436.
The World Health Organization provides information about the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000436
PMCID: PMC3101203  PMID: 21629683
4.  Assessing Optimal Target Populations for Influenza Vaccination Programmes: An Evidence Synthesis and Modelling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001527.
Marc Baguelin and colleagues use virological, clinical, epidemiological, and behavioral data to estimate how policies for influenza vaccination programs may be optimized in England and Wales.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Influenza vaccine policies that maximise health benefit through efficient use of limited resources are needed. Generally, influenza vaccination programmes have targeted individuals 65 y and over and those at risk, according to World Health Organization recommendations. We developed methods to synthesise the multiplicity of surveillance datasets in order to evaluate how changing target populations in the seasonal vaccination programme would affect infection rate and mortality.
Methods and Findings
Using a contemporary evidence-synthesis approach, we use virological, clinical, epidemiological, and behavioural data to develop an age- and risk-stratified transmission model that reproduces the strain-specific behaviour of influenza over 14 seasons in England and Wales, having accounted for the vaccination uptake over this period. We estimate the reduction in infections and deaths achieved by the historical programme compared with no vaccination, and the reduction had different policies been in place over the period. We find that the current programme has averted 0.39 (95% credible interval 0.34–0.45) infections per dose of vaccine and 1.74 (1.16–3.02) deaths per 1,000 doses. Targeting transmitters by extending the current programme to 5–16-y-old children would increase the efficiency of the total programme, resulting in an overall reduction of 0.70 (0.52–0.81) infections per dose and 1.95 (1.28–3.39) deaths per 1,000 doses. In comparison, choosing the next group most at risk (50–64-y-olds) would prevent only 0.43 (0.35–0.52) infections per dose and 1.77 (1.15–3.14) deaths per 1,000 doses.
Conclusions
This study proposes a framework to integrate influenza surveillance data into transmission models. Application to data from England and Wales confirms the role of children as key infection spreaders. The most efficient use of vaccine to reduce overall influenza morbidity and mortality is thus to target children in addition to older adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the airways. Most infected individuals recover quickly, but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. In countries with advanced health systems, these deaths occur mainly among elderly people and among individuals with long-term illnesses such as asthma and heart disease that increase the risk of complications occurring after influenza virus infection. Epidemics of influenza occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that an immune response produced one year through infection provides only partial protection against influenza the following year. Annual immunization with a vaccine that contains killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can greatly reduce a person's risk of catching influenza by preparing the immune system to respond quickly when challenged by a live influenza virus. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs that, in line with World Health Organization recommendations, target individuals 65 years old and older and people in high-risk groups.
Why Was This Study Done?
Is this approach the best use of available resources? Might, for example, vaccination of children—the main transmitters of influenza—provide more benefit to the whole population than vaccination of elderly people? Vaccination of children would not directly prevent as many influenza-related deaths as vaccination of elderly people, but it might indirectly prevent deaths in elderly adults by inducing herd immunity—vaccination of a large part of a population can protect unvaccinated members of the population by reducing the chances of an infection spreading. Policy makers need to know whether a change to an influenza vaccination program is likely to provide additional population benefits before altering the program. In this evidence synthesis and modeling study, the researchers combine (synthesize) longitudinal influenza surveillance datasets (data collected over time) from England and Wales, develop a mathematical model for influenza transmission based on these data using a Bayesian statistical approach, and use the model to evaluate the impact on influenza infections and deaths of changes to the seasonal influenza vaccination program in England and Wales.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed an influenza transmission model using clinical data on influenza-like illness consultations collected in a primary care surveillance scheme for each week of 14 influenza seasons in England and Wales, virological information on respiratory viruses detected in a subset of patients presenting with clinically suspected influenza, and data on vaccination coverage in the whole population (epidemiological data). They also incorporated data on social contacts (behavioral data) and on immunity to influenza viruses in the population (seroepidemiological data) into their model. To estimate the impact of potential changes to the current vaccination strategy in England and Wales, the researchers used their model, which replicated the patterns of disease observed in the surveillance data, to run simulated epidemics for each influenza season and for three strains of influenza virus under various vaccination scenarios. Compared to no vaccination, the current program (vaccination of people 65 years old and older and people in high-risk groups) averted 0.39 infections per dose of vaccine and 1.74 deaths per 1,000 doses. Notably, the model predicted that extension of the program to target 5–16-year-old children would increase the efficiency of the program and would avert 0.70 infections per dose and 1.95 deaths per 1,000 doses.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the transmission model developed by the researchers closely fit the available surveillance data suggests that the model should be able to predict what would have happened in England and Wales over the study period if an alternative vaccination regimen had been in place. The accuracy of such predictions may be limited, however, because the vaccination model is based on a series of simplifying assumptions. Importantly, given that influenza vaccination for children is being rolled out in England and Wales from September 2013, the model confirms that children are key spreaders of influenza and suggests that a vaccination program targeting children will reduce influenza infections and potentially influenza deaths in the whole population. More generally, the findings of this study support wider adoption of national vaccination strategies designed to block influenza transmission and to target those individuals most at risk from the complications of influenza infection.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371.journal.pmed.1001527.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about seasonal influenza and about vaccination; Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency) provides information on influenza surveillance in the UK, including information about the primary care surveillance database used in this study
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza (in several languages)
The European Influenzanet is a system to monitor the activity of influenza-like illness with the aid of volunteers via the Internet
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza, including information about vaccination and about the US influenza surveillance system; its website contains a short video about personal experiences of influenza
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal influenza and vaccination
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza and about immunization (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001527
PMCID: PMC3793005  PMID: 24115913
5.  Contribution of respiratory pathogens to influenza-like illness consultations 
Epidemiology and Infection  2012;141(10):2196-2204.
SUMMARY
Influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) are caused by several respiratory pathogens. These pathogens show weak to strong seasonal activity implying seasonality in ILI consultations. In this paper, the contribution of pathogens to seasonality of ILI consultations was statistically modelled. Virological count data were first smoothed using modulation models for seasonal time series. Second, Poisson regression was used regressing ILI consultation counts on the smoothed time series. Using ratios of the estimated regression parameters, relative measures of the underreporting of pathogens were obtained. Influenza viruses A and B, parainfluenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) significantly contributed to explain the seasonal variation in ILI consultations. We also found that RSV was the least and influenza virus A is the most underreported pathogen in Belgian laboratory surveillance. The proposed methods and results are helpful in interpreting the data of clinical and laboratory surveillance, which are the essential parts of influenza surveillance.
doi:10.1017/S0950268812002506
PMCID: PMC3757921  PMID: 23217849
Infectious disease epidemiology; influenza; statistics; surveillance system
6.  Reducing the Impact of the Next Influenza Pandemic Using Household-Based Public Health Interventions 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e361.
Background
The outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza in domestic poultry and wild birds has caused global concern over the possible evolution of a novel human strain [1]. If such a strain emerges, and is not controlled at source [2,3], a pandemic is likely to result. Health policy in most countries will then be focused on reducing morbidity and mortality.
Methods and Findings
We estimate the expected reduction in primary attack rates for different household-based interventions using a mathematical model of influenza transmission within and between households. We show that, for lower transmissibility strains [2,4], the combination of household-based quarantine, isolation of cases outside the household, and targeted prophylactic use of anti-virals will be highly effective and likely feasible across a range of plausible transmission scenarios. For example, for a basic reproductive number (the average number of people infected by a typically infectious individual in an otherwise susceptible population) of 1.8, assuming only 50% compliance, this combination could reduce the infection (symptomatic) attack rate from 74% (49%) to 40% (27%), requiring peak quarantine and isolation levels of 6.2% and 0.8% of the population, respectively, and an overall anti-viral stockpile of 3.9 doses per member of the population. Although contact tracing may be additionally effective, the resources required make it impractical in most scenarios.
Conclusions
National influenza pandemic preparedness plans currently focus on reducing the impact associated with a constant attack rate, rather than on reducing transmission. Our findings suggest that the additional benefits and resource requirements of household-based interventions in reducing average levels of transmission should also be considered, even when expected levels of compliance are only moderate.
Voluntary household-based quarantine and external isolation are likely to be effective in limiting the morbidity and mortality of an influenza pandemic, even if such a pandemic cannot be entirely prevented, and even if compliance with these interventions is moderate.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Naturally occurring variation in the influenza virus can lead both to localized annual epidemics and to less frequent global pandemics of catastrophic proportions. The most destructive of the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century, the so-called Spanish flu of 1918–1919, is estimated to have caused 20 million deaths. As evidenced by ongoing tracking efforts and news media coverage of H5N1 avian influenza, contemporary approaches to monitoring and communications can be expected to alert health officials and the general public of the emergence of new, potentially pandemic strains before they spread globally.
Why Was This Study Done?
In order to act most effectively on advance notice of an approaching influenza pandemic, public health workers need to know which available interventions are likely to be most effective. This study was done to estimate the effectiveness of specific preventive measures that communities might implement to reduce the impact of pandemic flu. In particular, the study evaluates methods to reduce person-to-person transmission of influenza, in the likely scenario that complete control cannot be achieved by mass vaccination and anti-viral treatment alone.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model—essentially a computer simulation—to simulate the course of pandemic influenza in a hypothetical population at risk for infection at home, through external peer networks such as schools and workplaces, and through general community transmission. Parameters such as the distribution of household sizes, the rate at which individuals develop symptoms from nonpandemic viruses, and the risk of infection within households were derived from demographic and epidemiologic data from Hong Kong, as well as empirical studies of influenza transmission. A model based on these parameters was then used to calculate the effects of interventions including voluntary household quarantine, voluntary individual isolation in a facility outside the home, and contact tracing (that is, asking infectious individuals to identify people whom they may have infected and then warning those people) on the spread of pandemic influenza through the population. The model also took into account the anti-viral treatment of exposed, asymptomatic household members and of individuals in isolation, and assumed that all intervention strategies were put into place before the arrival of individuals infected with the pandemic virus.
  Using this model, the authors predicted that even if only half of the population were to comply with public health interventions, the proportion infected during the first year of an influenza pandemic could be substantially reduced by a combination of household-based quarantine, isolation of actively infected individuals in a location outside the household, and targeted prophylactic treatment of exposed individuals with anti-viral drugs. Based on an influenza-associated mortality rate of 0.5% (as has been estimated for New York City in the 1918–1919 pandemic), the magnitude of the predicted benefit of these interventions is a reduction from 49% to 27% in the proportion of the population who become ill in the first year of the pandemic, which would correspond to 16,000 fewer deaths in a city the size of Hong Kong (6.8 million people). In the model, anti-viral treatment appeared to be about as effective as isolation when each was used in combination with household quarantine, but would require stockpiling 3.9 doses of anti-viral for each member of the population. Contact tracing was predicted to provide a modest additional benefit over quarantine and isolation, but also to increase considerably the proportion of the population in quarantine.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study predicts that voluntary household-based quarantine and external isolation can be effective in limiting the morbidity and mortality of an influenza pandemic, even if such a pandemic cannot be entirely prevented, and even if compliance with these interventions is far from uniform. These simulations can therefore inform preparedness plans in the absence of data from actual intervention trials, which would be impossible outside (and impractical within) the context of an actual pandemic. Like all mathematical models, however, the one presented in this study relies on a number of assumptions regarding the characteristics and circumstances of the situation that it is intended to represent. For example, the authors found that the efficacy of policies to reduce the rate of infection vary according to the ease with which a given virus spreads from person to person. Because this parameter (known as the basic reproductive ratio, R0) cannot be reliably predicted for a new viral strain based on past epidemics, the authors note that in an actual influenza pandemic rapid determinations of R0 in areas already involved would be necessary to finalize public health responses in threatened areas. Further, the implementation of the interventions that appear beneficial in this model would require devoting attention and resources to practical considerations, such as how to staff isolation centers and provide food and water to those in household quarantine. However accurate the scientific data and predictive models may be, their effectiveness can only be realized through well-coordinated local, as well as international, efforts.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030361.
• World Health Organization influenza pandemic preparedness page
• US Department of Health and Human Services avian and pandemic flu information site
• Pandemic influenza page from the Public Health Agency of Canada
• Emergency planning page on pandemic flu from the England Department of Health
• Wikipedia entry on pandemic influenza with links to individual country resources (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030361
PMCID: PMC1526768  PMID: 16881729
7.  Antiviral Resistance and the Control of Pandemic Influenza 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e15.
Background
The response to the next influenza pandemic will likely include extensive use of antiviral drugs (mainly oseltamivir), combined with other transmission-reducing measures. Animal and in vitro studies suggest that some strains of influenza may become resistant to oseltamivir while maintaining infectiousness (fitness). Use of antiviral agents on the scale anticipated for the control of pandemic influenza will create an unprecedented selective pressure for the emergence and spread of these strains. Nonetheless, antiviral resistance has received little attention when evaluating these plans.
Methods and Findings
We designed and analyzed a deterministic compartmental model of the transmission of oseltamivir-sensitive and -resistant influenza infections during a pandemic. The model predicts that even if antiviral treatment or prophylaxis leads to the emergence of a transmissible resistant strain in as few as 1 in 50,000 treated persons and 1 in 500,000 prophylaxed persons, widespread use of antivirals may strongly promote the spread of resistant strains at the population level, leading to a prevalence of tens of percent by the end of a pandemic. On the other hand, even in circumstances in which a resistant strain spreads widely, the use of antivirals may significantly delay and/or reduce the total size of the pandemic. If resistant strains carry some fitness cost, then, despite widespread emergence of resistance, antivirals could slow pandemic spread by months or more, and buy time for vaccine development; this delay would be prolonged by nondrug control measures (e.g., social distancing) that reduce transmission, or use of a stockpiled suboptimal vaccine. Surprisingly, the model suggests that such nondrug control measures would increase the proportion of the epidemic caused by resistant strains.
Conclusions
The benefits of antiviral drug use to control an influenza pandemic may be reduced, although not completely offset, by drug resistance in the virus. Therefore, the risk of resistance should be considered in pandemic planning and monitored closely during a pandemic.
Emergence of oseltamivir-resistant influenza strains during a pandemic is likely given the heightened selective pressure if the drug is widely used. Marc Lipsitch and colleagues suggest that resistance would reduce but not completely offset the drug's benefits for pandemic control.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Governments and health authorities worldwide are planning how they would best prepare for and deal with a future influenza pandemic. Seasonal influenza is thought to affect between 5% and 15% of the population worldwide each year. Most people who get influenza recover within a couple of weeks without lasting effects, but a small proportion of patients, mostly young children and elderly people, experience serious complications that can be fatal. An influenza pandemic happens when new variants of the influenza virus emerge against which little immunity exists in the general population. Pandemic influenza strains are transmitted more rapidly than seasonal strains, often sweep across several countries or continents, and make more people ill. There are drugs that can treat and prevent influenza. One of them, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is an antiviral drug that works by preventing viral particles from being released by infected human cells. Stockpiling large amounts of oseltamivir and related drugs with the intent to treat a large fraction of the population is a key part of pandemic preparedness of many countries. However, it is known that influenza viruses can develop resistance to these drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is not clear how the emergence of oseltamivir-resistant influenza strains would affect the course of any future influenza pandemic. Much research in this area has focused on how likely the new strains are to emerge in the first place, rather than on how they might spread once they had emerged. In the context of an influenza pandemic, antiviral drugs would be used in a large proportion of the population, likely driving the selection and spread of resistant viruses. For this study, the researchers wanted to estimate the likely impact of resistant strains during an influenza pandemic.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
These researchers set up a mathematical model (i.e., simulations done on a computer) to mimic the spread of influenza. They then fed a set of assumptions into the computer. These included information about the rate of transmission of influenza from one person to another; what proportion of people would receive antiviral drugs for prophylaxis or treatment; how likely the drugs would be to successfully treat or prevent infection; and in what proportion of people the virus might become resistant to drugs. The modeling led to three main predictions. First, it predicted that widespread use of antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir could quickly lead to the spread of resistant viruses, even if resistant strains emerged only rarely. Second, even with resistant strains circulating, prophylaxis and treatment with oseltamivir would still delay the spread of the pandemic and reduce its total size. Third, nondrug interventions (such as social isolation and school closures) would further reduce the number of cases, but a higher proportion of cases would be caused by resistant strains if these control measures were used.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, in the event of a future influenza pandemic for which antiviral drugs are used, there is a risk of resistance emerging and resistant strains causing illness in a substantial number of people. This would counteract the benefits of antiviral drugs but not eliminate those benefits entirely. Like all modeling studies, this one relies on realistic assumptions being entered into the model, and it is hard to know closely the model will mimic a real-life situation until the properties of an actual pandemic strain are known. Most studies, including this one, suggest that in the event of a pandemic, antiviral drugs will have an overall beneficial impact on reducing death rates and adverse health outcomes. However, given the sizeable effects of resistance suggested here, its role should be considered in pandemic planning. This includes surveillance that can detect emergence and spread of resistant strains.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040015.
World Health Organization: information on pandemic preparedness
World Health Organization: fact sheets on influenza
Information from the UK Health Protection Agency on pandemic influenza
US government website on both pandemic flu and avian flu (information provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040015
PMCID: PMC1779817  PMID: 17253900
8.  Evaluation of Coseasonality of Influenza and Invasive Pneumococcal Disease: Results from Prospective Surveillance 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(6):e1001042.
Using a combination of modeling and statistical analyses, David Fisman and colleagues show that influenza likely influences the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease by enhancing risk of invasion in colonized individuals.
Background
The wintertime co-occurrence of peaks in influenza and invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is well documented, but how and whether wintertime peaks caused by these two pathogens are causally related is still uncertain. We aimed to investigate the relationship between influenza infection and IPD in Ontario, Canada, using several complementary methodological tools.
Methods and Findings
We evaluated a total number of 38,501 positive influenza tests in Central Ontario and 6,191 episodes of IPD in the Toronto/Peel area, Ontario, Canada, between 1 January 1995 and 3 October 2009, reported through population-based surveillance. We assessed the relationship between the seasonal wave forms for influenza and IPD using fast Fourier transforms in order to examine the relationship between these two pathogens over yearly timescales. We also used three complementary statistical methods (time-series methods, negative binomial regression, and case-crossover methods) to evaluate the short-term effect of influenza dynamics on pneumococcal risk. Annual periodicity with wintertime peaks could be demonstrated for IPD, whereas periodicity for influenza was less regular. As for long-term effects, phase and amplitude terms of pneumococcal and influenza seasonal sine waves were not correlated and meta-analysis confirmed significant heterogeneity of influenza, but not pneumococcal phase terms. In contrast, influenza was shown to Granger-cause pneumococcal disease. A short-term association between IPD and influenza could be demonstrated for 1-week lags in both case-crossover (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] for one case of IPD per 100 influenza cases  = 1.10 [1.02–1.18]) and negative binomial regression analysis (incidence rate ratio [95% confidence interval] for one case of IPD per 100 influenza cases  = 1.09 [1.05–1.14]).
Conclusions
Our data support the hypothesis that influenza influences bacterial disease incidence by enhancing short-term risk of invasion in colonized individuals. The absence of correlation between seasonal waveforms, on the other hand, suggests that bacterial disease transmission is affected to a lesser extent.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Although some pathogens (disease-causing organisms) cause illness all year round, others are responsible for seasonal peaks of illness. These peaks occur because of a complex interplay of factors such as the loss of immunity to the pathogen over time and seasonal changes in the pathogen's ability to infect new individuals. Thus, in temperate countries in the northern hemisphere, illness caused by influenza viruses (pathogens that infect the nose, throat, and airways) usually peaks between December and March, perhaps because weather conditions during these months favor the survival of influenza virus in the environment and thus increase its chances of being transferred among people. Another illness that peaks during the winter months in temperate regions is pneumonia, a severe lung infection that is often caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. These bacteria can colonize the back of the throat without causing disease but occasionally spread into the lungs and other organs where they cause potentially fatal invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD).
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the co-occurrence of seasonal peaks of influenza and IPD is well documented, it is unclear whether (or how) these peaks are causally related. For example, do the peaks of influenza and IPD both occur in the winter because influenza enhances person-to-person transmission of S. pneumoniae (hypothesis 1)? Alternatively, do the diseases co-occur because influenza infection increases the risk of IPD in individuals who are already colonized with S. pneumoniae (hypothesis 2)? Healthcare professionals need to know whether there is a causal relationship between influenza and IPD so that they can target vaccination for both diseases to those individuals most at risk of developing the potentially serious complications of these diseases. In this study, the researchers use several mathematical and statistical methods and data on influenza and IPD collected in Ontario, Canada to investigate the relationship between these seasonal illnesses.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between January 1995 and October 2009, 38,501 positive influenza tests were recorded in Ontario by the Canadian national influenza surveillance network. Over the same time period, the Toronto Invasive Bacterial Diseases Network (a group of hospitals, laboratories, and doctors that undertakes population-based surveillance for serious bacterial infections in the Toronto and Peel Regions of Ontario) recorded 6,191 IPD episodes. The researchers used a mathematical method called fast Fourier transforms that compares the shape of wave forms to look for any relationship between infections with the two pathogens over yearly timescales (a test of hypothesis 1) and three statistical methods to evaluate the short-term effect of influenza dynamics on IPD risk (tests of hypothesis 2). Although they found wintertime peaks for infections with both pathogens, there was no correlation between the seasonal wave forms for influenza and IPD. That is, there was no relationship between the seasonal patterns of the two infections. By contrast, two of the statistical methods used to test hypothesis 2 revealed a short-term association between infections with influenza and with IPD. Moreover, the third statistical method (the Granger causality Wald test, a type of time-series analysis) provided evidence that data collected at intervals on influenza can be used to predict peaks in IPD infections.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support (but do not prove) the hypothesis that influenza influences IPD incidence by enhancing the short-term risk of bacterial invasion in individuals already colonized with S. pneumoniae, possibly by increasing the permeability of the lining of the airways to bacteria. By contrast, the lack of correlation between the seasonal wave forms for the two diseases suggests that person-to-person transfer of S. pneumoniae is affected by influenza infections to a lesser extent. These findings have important implications for disease control policy. First, they suggest that the increased number of influenza infections in pandemic years may not necessarily be accompanied by a marked surge in IPD. Second, because the findings suggest that some cases of IPD may be influenza-attributable, the extension of influenza vaccination to school-age children and young adults (a group of people at particular risk of IPD who are not normally vaccinated against influenza) could reduce the incidence of IPD as well as the incidence of influenza.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0015493
A related research article by the same authors evaluating links between respiratory viruses and invasive meningococcal disease can be found in PLoS One (e0015493)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza and pneumococcal disease and pneumococcal vaccination
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients about seasonal influenza and pneumococcal infection
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza and pneumococcal infections (in English and Spanish)
FluWatch is the Canadian national surveillance system for influenza
More information about the Toronto Invasive Bacterial Network is available
The International Association for Ecology and Health provides information on the physical environment and its influence on health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001042
PMCID: PMC3110256  PMID: 21687693
9.  Predicting the Epidemic Sizes of Influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2, and B: A Statistical Method 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001051.
Using weekly influenza surveillance data from the US CDC, Edward Goldstein and colleagues develop a statistical method to predict the sizes of epidemics caused by seasonal influenza strains. This method could inform decisions about the most appropriate vaccines or drugs needed early in the influenza season.
Background
The epidemic sizes of influenza A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B infections vary from year to year in the United States. We use publicly available US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) influenza surveillance data between 1997 and 2009 to study the temporal dynamics of influenza over this period.
Methods and Findings
Regional outpatient surveillance data on influenza-like illness (ILI) and virologic surveillance data were combined to define a weekly proxy for the incidence of each strain in the United States. All strains exhibited a negative association between their cumulative incidence proxy (CIP) for the whole season (from calendar week 40 of each year to calendar week 20 of the next year) and the CIP of the other two strains (the complementary CIP) from the start of the season up to calendar week 2 (or 3, 4, or 5) of the next year. We introduce a method to predict a particular strain's CIP for the whole season by following the incidence of each strain from the start of the season until either the CIP of the chosen strain or its complementary CIP exceed certain thresholds. The method yielded accurate predictions, which generally occurred within a few weeks of the peak of incidence of the chosen strain, sometimes after that peak. For the largest seasons in the data, which were dominated by A/H3N2, prediction of A/H3N2 incidence always occurred at least several weeks in advance of the peak.
Conclusion
Early circulation of one influenza strain is associated with a reduced total incidence of the other strains, consistent with the presence of interference between subtypes. Routine ILI and virologic surveillance data can be combined using this new method to predict the relative size of each influenza strain's epidemic by following the change in incidence of a given strain in the context of the incidence of cocirculating strains.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter in temperate countries, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways. Most infected individuals recover quickly but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. Epidemics of influenza occur because small but frequent changes in the viral proteins (antigens) to which the immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual immunization with a vaccine that contains killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains boosts this natural immunity and greatly reduces a person's chances of catching influenza. Influenza epidemics in temperate latitudes are usually caused by an influenza B virus or one of two influenza A subtypes called A/H3N2 and A/H1N1. The names of the influenza A viruses indicate the types of two major influenza antigens—hemagglutinin (H3 or H1) and neuraminidase (N2 or N1)—present in the viruses.
Why Was This Study Done?
At present, there is no way to predict whether influenza B or an influenza A subtype will be dominant (responsible for the majority of infections) in any given influenza season. There is also no way to predict the size of the epidemic that will be caused by each viral strain. Public health officials would like to be able to make predictions of this sort early in the winter to help them determine which measures to recommend to minimize the illness and death caused by influenza. In this study, the researchers use weekly influenza surveillance data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the temporal dynamics of seasonal influenza in the United States between 1997 and 2009 and to develop a statistical method to predict the sizes of epidemics caused by influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2, and B.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The CDC influenza surveillance system collects information on the proportion of patients attending US outpatient facilities who have an influenza-like illness (fever and a cough and/or a sore throat in the absence of any known cause other than influenza) and on the proportion of respiratory viral isolates testing positive for specific influenza strains at US viral surveillance laboratories. The researchers combined these data to define a weekly “proxy” incidence of each influenza strain across the United States (an estimate of the number of new cases per week in the US population) and a cumulative incidence proxy (CIP) for each influenza season. For each strain, there was a negative association between its whole-season CIP and the early-season CIP of the other two strains (the complementary CIP). That is, high infection rates with one strain appeared to interfere with the transmission of other strains. Given this relationship, the researchers then developed a statistical algorithm (a step-by-step problem solving method) that accurately predicted the whole-season CIP for a particular strain by following the incidence of each strain from the start of the season until either its CIP or the complementary CIP had exceeded a specific threshold. So, for example, for influenza B, the algorithm provided an accurate prediction of the whole-season CIP before the peak of influenza B incidence for each season included in the study. Similarly, prediction of whole-season A/H3N2 incidence always occurred several weeks in advance of its weekly incidence peak.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that early circulation of one influenza strain is associated with a reduced total incidence of other strains, possibly because of cross-subtype immunity. Importantly, they also suggest that routine early-season surveillance data can be used to predict the relative size of the epidemics caused by each influenza strain in the United States and in other countries where sufficient surveillance data are available. Because the algorithm makes many assumptions and simplifies the behavior of influenza epidemics, its predictions may not always be accurate. Moreover, it needs to be tested with data collected over more influenza seasons. Nevertheless, the algorithm's ability to predict the relative epidemic size of A/H3N2, the influenza strain with the highest death rates, several weeks before its peak in seasons in which it was the dominant strain suggests that this predictive method could help public-health officials introduce relevant preventative and/or treatment measures early in each influenza season.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001051.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza, including information about the US influenza surveillance system
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site also provides information for patients about seasonal influenza; the UK Health Protection Agency provides information on influenza surveillance in the UK
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza l (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001051
PMCID: PMC3130020  PMID: 21750666
10.  Socio-Economic Burden of Influenza among Children Younger than 5 Years in the Outpatient Setting in Suzhou, China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69035.
Background
The disease burden of children with laboratory-confirmed influenza in China has not been well described. The aim of this study was to understand the epidemiology and socio-economic burden of influenza in children younger than 5 years in outpatient and emergency department settings.
Methods
A prospective study of laboratory-confirmed influenza among children presenting to the outpatient settings in Soochow University Affiliated Children's Hospital with symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) was performed from March 2011 to February 2012. Throat swabs were collected for detection of influenza virus by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assay. Data were collected using a researcher administered questionnaire, concerning demographics, clinical characteristics, direct and indirect costs, day care absence, parental work loss and similar respiratory illness development in the family.
Results
Among a total of 6,901 children who sought care at internal outpatient settings, 1,726 (25%) fulfilled the criteria of ILI and 1,537 were enrolled. Influenza was documented in 365 (24%) of enrolled 1,537 ILI cases. Among positive patients, 52 (14%) were type A and 313 (86%) were type B. About 52% of influenza outpatients had over-the-counter medications before physician visit and 41% visited hospitals two or more times. Children who attended daycare missed an average of 1.9 days. For each child with influenza-confirmed disease, the parents missed a mean of 1.8 work days. Similar respiratory symptoms were reported in 43% of family contacts of influenza positive children after onset of the child's illness. The mean direct and indirect costs per episode of influenza were $123.4 for outpatient clinics and $134.6 for emergency departments, and $125.9 for influenza A and $127.5 for influenza B.
Conclusions
Influenza is a common cause of influenza-like illness among children and has substantial socio-economic impact on children and their families regarding healthcare seeking and day care/work absence. The direct and indirect costs of childhood influenza impose a heavy financial burden on families. Prevention measures such as influenza vaccine could reduce the occurrence of influenza in children and the economic burden on families.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069035
PMCID: PMC3738561  PMID: 23950882
11.  Estimation of outbreak severity and transmissibility: Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in households 
BMC Medicine  2012;10:117.
Background
When an outbreak of a novel pathogen occurs, some of the most pressing questions from a public-health point of view relate to its transmissibility, and the probabilities of different clinical outcomes following infection, to allow an informed response. Estimates of these quantities are often based on household data due to the high potential for transmission in this setting, but typically a rich spectrum of individual-level outcomes (from uninfected to serious illness) are simplified to binary data (infected or not). We address the added benefit from retaining the heterogeneous outcome information in the case of the 2009-10 influenza pandemic, which posed particular problems for estimation of key epidemiological characteristics due to its relatively mild nature and hence low case ascertainment rates.
Methods
We use mathematical models of within-household transmission and case ascertainment, together with Bayesian statistics to estimate transmission probabilities stratified by household size, the variability of infectiousness of cases, and a set of probabilities describing case ascertainment. This novel approach was applied to data we collected from the early "containment phase" stage of the epidemic in Birmingham, England. We also conducted a comprehensive review of studies of household transmission of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09.
Results
We find large variability in the published estimates of within-household transmissibility of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in both model-based studies and those reporting secondary attack rates, finding that these estimates are very sensitive to how an infected case is defined. In particular, we find that reliance on laboratory confirmation alone underestimates the true number of cases, while utilising the heterogeneous range of outcomes (based on case definitions) for household infections allows a far more comprehensive pattern of transmission to be elucidated.
Conclusions
Differences in household sizes and how cases are defined could account for an appreciable proportion of the reported variability of within-household transmissibility of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09. Retaining and statistically analysing the full spectrum of individual-level outcomes (based on case definitions) rather than taking a potentially arbitrary threshold for infection, provides much-needed additional information. In a future pandemic, our approach could be used as a real-time analysis tool to infer the true number of cases, within-household transmission rates and levels of case ascertainment.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-117
PMCID: PMC3520767  PMID: 23046520
Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09; Household; Case ascertainment; Markov Chain Monte Carlo; Transmission dynamics
12.  Teacher led school-based surveillance can allow accurate tracking of emerging infectious diseases - evidence from serial cross-sectional surveys of febrile respiratory illness during the H1N1 2009 influenza pandemic in Singapore 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:336.
Background
Schools are important foci of influenza transmission and potential targets for surveillance and interventions. We compared several school-based influenza monitoring systems with clinic-based influenza-like illness (ILI) surveillance, and assessed the variation in illness rates between and within schools.
Methods
During the initial wave of pandemic H1N1 (pdmH1N1) infections from June to Sept 2009 in Singapore, we collected data on nation-wide laboratory confirmed cases (Sch-LCC) and daily temperature monitoring (Sch-DTM), and teacher-led febrile respiratory illness reporting in 6 sentinel schools (Sch-FRI). Comparisons were made against age-stratified clinic-based influenza-like illness (ILI) data from 23 primary care clinics (GP-ILI) and proportions of ILI testing positive for pdmH1N1 (Lab-ILI) by computing the fraction of cumulative incidence occurring by epidemiological week 30 (when GP-ILI incidence peaked); and cumulative incidence rates between school-based indicators and sero-epidemiological pdmH1N1 incidence (estimated from changes in prevalence of A/California/7/2009 H1N1 hemagglutination inhibition titers ≥ 40 between pre-epidemic and post-epidemic sera). Variation in Sch-FRI rates in the 6 schools was also investigated through a Bayesian hierarchical model.
Results
By week 30, for primary and secondary school children respectively, 63% and 79% of incidence for Sch-LCC had occurred, compared with 50% and 52% for GP-ILI data, and 48% and 53% for Sch-FRI. There were 1,187 notified cases and 7,588 episodes in the Sch-LCC and Sch-DTM systems; given school enrollment of 485,723 children, this represented 0.24 cases and 1.6 episodes per 100 children respectively. Mean Sch-FRI rate was 28.8 per 100 children (95% CI: 27.7 to 29.9) in the 6 schools. We estimate from serology that 41.8% (95% CI: 30.2% to 55.9%) of primary and 43.2% (95% CI: 28.2% to 60.8%) of secondary school-aged children were infected. Sch-FRI rates were similar across the 6 schools (23 to 34 episodes per 100 children), but there was widespread variation by classrooms; in the hierarchical model, omitting age and school effects was inconsequential but neglecting classroom level effects led to highly significant reductions in goodness of fit.
Conclusions
Epidemic curves from Sch-FRI were comparable to GP-ILI data, and Sch-FRI detected substantially more infections than Sch-LCC and Sch-DTM. Variability in classroom attack rates suggests localized class-room transmission.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-336
PMCID: PMC3544582  PMID: 23206689
Respiratory tract infections; Vaccination; Serology
13.  Use of a Real-Time Syndromic Surveillance System to Improve Influenza Like Illness Screening and Documentation in Emergency Departments during the H1N1 Pandemic 
Objective
Screening for Influenza Like Illness (ILI) is an important infection control activity within emergency departments (ED). When ILI screening is routinely completed in the ED it becomes clinically useful in isolating potentially infectious persons and protecting others from exposure to disease. When routinely collected, ILI screening in an electronic clinical application, with real time reporting, can be useful in Public Health surveillance activities and can support resource allocation decisions e.g. increasing decontamination cleaning. However, the reliability of documentation is unproven. Efforts to support the adoption of ILI screening documentation in a computer application, without mandatory field support, can lead to long term success and increased adherence.
Methods
We evaluated the impact of efforts to improve ILI screening documentation adherence in an electronic ED information system (EDIS) during wave 2 of the September–November 2009 H1N1 pandemic. ILI screening documentation rates were calculated across the 8 sites in Edmonton Zone of Alberta Health Services and subsequently correlated to interventions. Five interventions were evaluated: real-time verbal reminders (one-to-one nurse reminders), delayed email reminders (with the ILI screening documentation rates), meetings (strategize to improve documentation rate), media (visual media broadcasts) and clinic awareness (opening and operation of the influenza assessment clinic). A logistic regression model was used to derive odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for correlation between the interventions and the screening rate change.
Results
The ILI screening not-documented (N/D) rate on September 27, 2009, was 75% (N/D = 781; ED visits = 1039). By November 25, the N/D rate had fallen to 11% and remained below 20% into July 2010. October 18, 2009 marked the first day that the daily positive (POS) ILI screen rate was at or above 10% of patient visits with a rate of 12% (POS = 139; ED visits = 1164). The POS rate sustained values >10% until November 25(peaking at 40% on October 28, 2009) reflecting influenza activity and informing public health and other decision makers. When all site screening rates were aggregated and compared to the intervention variables – e-mail reminders (OR = 2.176; 95% CI: 2.078–2.279), meetings (OR = 2.286; 95% CI: 2.089–2.501), media (OR = 4.894; 95% CI: 4.219–5.677), clinic awareness (OR = 1.145; 95% CI: 0.998–1.313) were positively associated with increased adherence. Where one-to-one reminders to document ILI screening were provided at one site, the ILI documentation increased (OR = 2.663; 95% CI: 2.260–3.138). E-mail reminders (OR = 0.852; 95% CI: 0.732–0.992) and meetings (OR = 0.696; 95% CI: 0.505–0.960) had less influence on ILI documentation when the single site was analyzed.
Conclusions
A variety of interventions successfully improved ILI screening documentation. The greatest impact was associated with e-mail reminders for recording ILI screening results, meetings on how to improve adherence and media broadcasts associated with the circulating pandemic influenza. The strongest reported effect size was seen in one site following one-to-one nurse reminders to record the ILI screening results. These results suggest that ILI documentation adherence can be successfully increased using a variety of interventions. Implementing and monitoring the effect of the interventions was made possible by the syndromic surveillance system, which at the same time, contributed to improved data used for infection prevention and control and public health purposes.
PMCID: PMC3692878
decision support; Influenza Like Illness; screening; documentation; adherence
14.  Bayesian Contact Tracing for Communicable Respiratory Disease 
Objective
The purpose of our work is to develop a system for automatic contact tracing with the goal of identifying individuals who are most likely infected, even if we do not have direct diagnostic information on their health status. Control of the spread of respiratory pathogens (e.g. novel influenza viruses) in the population using vaccination is a challenging problem that requires quick identification of the infectious agent followed by large-scale production and administration of a vaccine. This takes a significant amount of time. A complementary approach to control transmission is contact tracing and quarantining, which are currently applied to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For STDs, identifying the contacts that might have led to disease transmission is relatively easy; however, for respiratory pathogens, the contacts that can lead to transmission include a huge number of face-to-face daily social interactions that are impossible to trace manually.
Introduction
The evolution of novel influenza viruses in humans is a biological phenomenon that can not be stopped. All existing data suggest that vaccination against the morbidity and mortality of the novel influenza viruses is our best line of defence. Unfortunately, vaccination requires that the infectious agent to be quickly identified and a safe vaccine in large quantities is produced and administered. As was witnessed with the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, these steps took a frustratingly long period during which the novel influenza virus continued its unstoppable and rapid global spreading.
In addition to the different vaccination strategies (e.g. random mass vaccination, age structured vaccination), isolation and quarantining of infected individuals is another effective method used by the public health agencies to control the spreading of infectious diseases. Isolation is effective against any infectious disease, however it can be very hard to detect infectious individuals in the population when: Symptoms are ambiguous or easily misdiagnosed (e.g. 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak shared many symptoms with many other influenza like illnesses)When the symptoms emerge after the individual become infectious.
Methods
We developed a dynamic Bayesian network model to process sensor information from users’ cellphones together with (possibly incomplete) diagnosis information to track the spread of disease in a population. Our model tracks real-time proximity contacts and can provide public health agencies with the probability of infection for each individual in the model.
For testing our algorithm, we used a real-world mobile sensor dataset with 120 individuals collected over a period of 9 months, and we simulated an outbreak.
Results
We ran several experiments where different sub-populations were “infected” and “diagnosed.” By using the contact information, our model was able to automatically identify individuals in the population who were likely to be infected even though they were not directly “diagnosed” with an illness.
Conclusions
Automatic contact tracing for respiratory pathogens is a powerful idea, however we have identified several implementation challenges. The first challenge is scalability: we note that a contact tracing system with a hundred thousand individuals requires a Bayesian model with a billion nodes. Bayesian inference on models of this scale is an open problem and an active area of research. The second challenge is privacy protection: although the test data were collected in an academic setting, deploying any system will require appropriate safeguards for user privacy. Nonetheless, our work llustrates the potential for broader use of contact tracing for modeling and controlling disease transmission.
PMCID: PMC3692863
Outbreak Detection; Syndromic Surveillance; Mobile; Contact Tracing; Bayesian Algorithms
15.  A Comparative Analysis of Influenza Vaccination Programs 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e387.
Background
The threat of avian influenza and the 2004–2005 influenza vaccine supply shortage in the United States have sparked a debate about optimal vaccination strategies to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality caused by the influenza virus.
Methods and Findings
We present a comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies: mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations. Applying the methods of contact network epidemiology to a model of disease transmission in a large urban population, we assume that vaccine supplies are limited and then evaluate the efficacy of these strategies across a wide range of viral transmission rates and for two different age-specific mortality distributions.
We find that the optimal strategy depends critically on the viral transmission level (reproductive rate) of the virus: morbidity-based strategies outperform mortality-based strategies for moderately transmissible strains, while the reverse is true for highly transmissible strains. These results hold for a range of mortality rates reported for prior influenza epidemics and pandemics. Furthermore, we show that vaccination delays and multiple introductions of disease into the community have a more detrimental impact on morbidity-based strategies than mortality-based strategies.
Conclusions
If public health officials have reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate and the frequency of new introductions into the community prior to an outbreak, then these methods can guide the design of optimal vaccination priorities. When such information is unreliable or not available, as is often the case, this study recommends mortality-based vaccination priorities.
A comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies, mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways that is transmitted in airborne droplets released by coughing or sneezing—is a serious public health threat. Most people recover quickly from influenza, but some individuals, especially infants, old people, and individuals with chronic health problems, can develop pneumonia and die. In the US, seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of flu cause an estimated 36,000 excess deaths annually. And now there are fears that avian influenza might start a human pandemic—a global epidemic that could kill millions. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza occur because flu viruses continually change the viral proteins (antigens) to which the immune system responds. “Antigenic drift”—small changes in these proteins—means that an immune system response that combats flu one year may not provide complete protection the next winter. “Antigenic shift”—large antigen changes—can cause pandemics because communities have no immunity to the changed virus. Annual vaccination with vaccines based on the currently circulating viruses controls seasonal flu epidemics; to control a pandemic, vaccines based on the antigenically altered virus would have to be quickly developed.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most countries target vaccination efforts towards the people most at risk of dying from influenza, and to health-care workers who are likely come into contact with flu patients. But is this the best way to reduce the burden of illness (morbidity) and death (mortality) caused by influenza, particularly at the start of a pandemic, when vaccine would be limited? Old people and infants are much less likely to catch and spread influenza than school children, students, and employed adults, so could vaccination of these sections of the population—instead of those most at risk of death—be the best way to contain influenza outbreaks? In this study, the researchers used an analytical method called “contact network epidemiology” to compare two types of vaccination strategies: the currently favored mortality-based strategy, which targets high-risk individuals, and a morbidity-based strategy, which targets those segments of the community in which most influenza cases occur.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Most models of disease transmission assume that each member of a community is equally likely to infect every other member. But a baby is unlikely to transmit flu to, for example, an unrelated, housebound elderly person. Contact network epidemiology takes the likely relationships between people into account when modeling disease transmission. Using information from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on household size, age distribution, and occupations, and other factors such as school sizes, the researchers built a model population of a quarter of a million interconnected people. They then investigated how different vaccination strategies controlled the spread of influenza in this population. The optimal strategy depended on the level of viral transmissibility—the likelihood that an infectious person transmits influenza to a susceptible individual with whom he or she has contact. For moderately transmissible flu viruses, a morbidity-based vaccination strategy, in which the people most likely to catch the flu are vaccinated, was more effective at containing seasonal and pandemic outbreaks than a mortality-based strategy, in which the people most likely to die if they caught the flu are vaccinated. For highly transmissible strains, this situation was reversed. The level of transmissibility at which this reversal occurred depended on several factors, including whether vaccination was delayed and how many times influenza was introduced into the community.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers tested their models by checking that they could replicate real influenza epidemics and pandemics, but, as with all mathematical models, they included many assumptions about influenza in their calculations, which may affect their results. Also, because the contact network used data from Vancouver, their results might not be applicable to other cities, or to nonurban areas. Nevertheless, their findings have important public health implications. When there are reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate, and it is known how often influenza is being introduced into a community, contact network models could help public health officials choose between morbidity- and mortality-based vaccination strategies. When the viral transmission rate is unreliable or unavailable (for example, at the start of a pandemic), the best policy would be the currently preferred strategy of mortality-based vaccination. More generally, the use of contact network models should improve estimates of how infectious diseases spread through populations and indicate the best ways to control human epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts on vaccination
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases feature on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
World Health Organization fact sheet on influenza, with links to information on vaccination
UK Health Protection Agency information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
MedlinePlus entry on influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387
PMCID: PMC1584413  PMID: 17020406
16.  ILI and SARI Surveillance along the California & Arizona Borders with Mexico, 2011–12 
Objective
To identify the pathogens responsible for influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) along the U.S.-Mexico border region in San Diego and Imperial Counties, CA and Pima County, AZ.
Introduction
National borders do not prevent the transmission of pathogens and associated vectors among border populations. The Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) has collaborated with the Mexican Secretariat of Health, the U. S. Department of State’s Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in concert with local health officials to conduct ILI surveillance (since 2004) and SARI surveillance (since 2009) in the border region.
Methods
Respiratory swabs were collected from patients with ILI (fever ≥ 100F, and sore throat or cough) or SARI (≥ 5 y.o.: ILI with hospital admission; < 5 y.o.: clinical suspicion of pneumonia with hospital admission) and stored at −70C. Specimens were tested with molecular techniques, viral and bacterial culture.
Results
NHRC received and tested 295 ILI specimens collected from four surveillance sites in 2011–12. Demographics: 53% female, 47% male; 36% 0–4 yrs old, 50% 5–24 yrs old, 8% 25–49 yrs old, 4% 50–64 yrs old, 2% >64 yrs old. Pathogens identified included influenza A (15%); rhinovirus (8%); respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (7%); adenovirus (6%); influenza B (4%) and parainfluenza virus (PIV) 1; (4%). 335 SARI specimens were collected from 6 sites. Demographics: 52% female, 48% male; 41% 0–4 yrs old; 9% 5–24 yrs old, 12% 25–49 yrs old, 11% 50–64 yrs old, 28% >64 yrs old. Pathogens identified included RSV (17%); rhinovirus (10%); influenza A (9%); adenovirus (6%); influenza B (2%) and PIV 1 (1%).
Conclusions
In 2011–12, our surveillance identified a difference in the proportion of respiratory pathogens affecting outpatients and inpatients. Influenza A was isolated more frequently in outpatients, whereas RSV was more frequent in hospitalized patients. We also noted an increased proportion of specimens from the 50–64 yr old and the >64 yr old age groups in the SARI surveillance, whereas 86% of the ILI specimens are from patients 24 yrs old or less. Additional benefits of this collaborative surveillance have been the cooperation, joint training and communication between the participating entities. These pre-established lines of communication are invaluable during a public health emergency, which was demonstrated during the recent influenza pandemic.
PMCID: PMC3692781
Key Words influenza; ILI; respiratory syncytial virus; US-Mexico border; SARI
17.  Epidemiological analysis of respiratory viral etiology for influenza-like illness during 2010 in Zhuhai, China 
Virology Journal  2013;10:143.
Background
Influenza-like illnesses (ILI), a subset of acute respiratory infections (ARI), are a significant source of morbidity and mortality worldwide. ILI can be caused by numerous pathogens, however; there is limited information on the etiology and epidemiology of ILI in China.
Methods
We performed a one-year surveillance study (2010) of viral etiology causing ILI and investigated the influence of climate on outbreaks of ILI attributed to viruses at the Outpatient Department of Zhuhai Municipal People’s Hospital in Zhuhai, China.
Results
Of the 337,272 outpatients who sought attention in the Outpatient Department of Zhuhai Municipal People’s Hospital in 2010, 3,747 (1.11%) presented with ILI. Of these patients presenting with ILI, 24.66% (924/3,747) had available samples and were enrolled in this study. At least one respiratory virus was identified in 411 patients (44.48%) and 42 (4.55%) were co-infected with two viruses. In patients co-infected with two viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was detected in 50% (21/42). Among common viral pathogens detected, significant differences in age distributions were observed in seasonal influenza virus A (sFulA, H3N2) and B (sFluB), pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza viruses (H1N1pdm09), RSV, and adenovirus (ADV). Infections with sFluA (H3N2), sFluB, RSV, and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) had characteristic seasonal patterns. The incidences of sFluA (H3N2), ADV, and RSV correlated with air temperature. Alternatively, the incidence of sFluB correlated with relative air humidity.
Conclusions
These results demonstrate that a wide range of respiratory viral pathogens are circulating in Zhuhai city. This information needs to be considered by clinicians when treating patients presenting with ILI.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-143
PMCID: PMC3655035  PMID: 23651577
Influenza-like illness (ILI); Respiratory viral pathogens; Epidemiological analysis; Meteorology
18.  The Effects of Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers in Nursing Homes: Insights from a Mathematical Model 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e200.
Background
Annual influenza vaccination of institutional health care workers (HCWs) is advised in most Western countries, but adherence to this recommendation is generally low. Although protective effects of this intervention for nursing home patients have been demonstrated in some clinical trials, the exact relationship between increased vaccine uptake among HCWs and protection of patients remains unknown owing to variations between study designs, settings, intensity of influenza seasons, and failure to control all effect modifiers. Therefore, we use a mathematical model to estimate the effects of HCW vaccination in different scenarios and to identify a herd immunity threshold in a nursing home department.
Methods and Findings
We use a stochastic individual-based model with discrete time intervals to simulate influenza virus transmission in a 30-bed long-term care nursing home department. We simulate different levels of HCW vaccine uptake and study the effect on influenza virus attack rates among patients for different institutional and seasonal scenarios. Our model reveals a robust linear relationship between the number of HCWs vaccinated and the expected number of influenza virus infections among patients. In a realistic scenario, approximately 60% of influenza virus infections among patients can be prevented when the HCW vaccination rate increases from 0 to 1. A threshold for herd immunity is not detected. Due to stochastic variations, the differences in patient attack rates between departments are high and large outbreaks can occur for every level of HCW vaccine uptake.
Conclusions
The absence of herd immunity in nursing homes implies that vaccination of every additional HCW protects an additional fraction of patients. Because of large stochastic variations, results of small-sized clinical trials on the effects of HCW vaccination should be interpreted with great care. Moreover, the large variations in attack rates should be taken into account when designing future studies.
Using a mathematical model to simulate influenza transmission in nursing homes, Carline van den Dool and colleagues find that each additional staff member vaccinated further reduces the risk to patients.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a contagious viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways. Most people recover completely from influenza within a week or two but some develop life-threatening complications such as bacterial pneumonia. As a result, influenza outbreaks kill about half a million people—mainly infants, elderly people, and chronically ill individuals—each year. To minimize influenza-related deaths, the World Health Organization recommends that vulnerable people be vaccinated against influenza every autumn. Annual vaccination is necessary because flu viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes. This means that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. To provide maximum protection against influenza, each year's vaccine contains disabled versions of the major circulating strains of influenza viruses.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most Western countries also recommend annual flu vaccination for health care workers (HCWs) in hospitals and other institutions to reduce the transmission of influenza to vulnerable patients. However, many HCWs don't get a regular flu shot, so should efforts be made to increase their rate of vaccine uptake? To answer this question, public-health experts need to know more about the relationship between vaccine uptake among HCWs and patient protection. In particular, they need to know whether a high rate of vaccine uptake by HCWs will provide “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs because, when a sufficient fraction of a population is immune to a disease that passes from person to person, infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people, which means that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are protected from the disease. In this study, the researchers develop a mathematical model to investigate the relationship between vaccine uptake among HCWs and patient protection in a nursing home department.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To predict influenza virus attack rates (the number of patient infections divided by the number of patients in a nursing home department during an influenza season) at different levels of HCW vaccine uptake, the researchers develop a stochastic transmission model to simulate epidemics on a computer. This model predicts that as the HCW vaccination rate increases from 0 (no HCWs vaccinated) to 1 (all the HCWs vaccinated), the expected average influenza virus attack rate decreases at a constant rate. In the researchers' baseline scenario—a nursing home department with 30 beds where patients come into contact with other patients, HCWs, and visitors—the model predicts that about 60% of the patients who would have been infected if no HCWs had been vaccinated are protected when all the HCWs are vaccinated, and that seven HCWs would have to be vaccinated to protect one patient. This last figure does not change with increasing vaccine uptake, which indicates that there is no level of HCW vaccination that completely stops the spread of influenza among the patients; that is, there is no herd immunity. Finally, the researchers show that large influenza outbreaks can happen by chance at every level of HCW vaccine uptake.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of these predictions may depend on the specific assumptions built into the model. Therefore the researchers verified that their findings hold for a wide range of plausible assumptions. These findings have two important practical implications. First, the direct relationship between HCW vaccination and patient protection and the lack of any herd immunity suggest that any increase in HCW vaccine uptake will be beneficial to patients in nursing homes. That is, increasing the HCW vaccination rate from 80% to 90% is likely to be as important as increasing it from 10% to 20%. Second, even 100% HCW vaccination cannot guarantee that influenza outbreaks will not occasionally occur in nursing homes. Because of the large variation in attack rates, the results of small clinical trials on the effects of HCW vaccination may be inaccurate and future studies will need to be very large if they are to provide reliable estimates of the amount of protection that HCW vaccination provides to vulnerable patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050200.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues is also available
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information on influenza
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about herd immunity, including a simple explanatory animation
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides an overview on the types of influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050200
PMCID: PMC2573905  PMID: 18959470
19.  Early Pandemic Influenza (2009 H1N1) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: A Clinical Virological and Epidemiological Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000277.
Rogier van Doorn and colleagues analyze the initial outbreak, attempts at containment, and establishment of community transmission of pandemic H1N1 influenza in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Background
To date, little is known about the initial spread and response to the 2009 pandemic of novel influenza A (“2009 H1N1”) in tropical countries. Here, we analyse the early progression of the epidemic from 26 May 2009 until the establishment of community transmission in the second half of July 2009 in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. In addition, we present detailed systematic viral clearance data on 292 isolated and treated patients and the first three cases of selection of resistant virus during treatment in Vietnam.
Methods and Findings
Data sources included all available health reports from the Ministry of Health and relevant health authorities as well as clinical and laboratory data from the first confirmed cases isolated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in HCMC. Extensive reverse transcription (RT)-PCR diagnostics on serial samples, viral culture, neuraminidase-inhibition testing, and sequencing were performed on a subset of 2009 H1N1 confirmed cases. Virological (PCR status, shedding) and epidemiological (incidence, isolation, discharge) data were combined to reconstruct the initial outbreak and the establishment of community transmission. From 27 April to 24 July 2009, approximately 760,000 passengers who entered HCMC on international flights were screened at the airport by a body temperature scan and symptom questionnaire. Approximately 0.15% of incoming passengers were intercepted, 200 of whom tested positive for 2009 H1N1 by RT-PCR. An additional 121 out of 169 nontravelers tested positive after self-reporting or contact tracing. These 321 patients spent 79% of their PCR-positive days in isolation; 60% of PCR-positive days were spent treated and in isolation. Influenza-like illness was noted in 61% of patients and no patients experienced pneumonia or severe outcomes. Viral clearance times were similar among patient groups with differing time intervals from illness onset to treatment, with estimated median clearance times between 2.6 and 2.8 d post-treatment for illness-to-treatment intervals of 1–4 d, and 2.0 d (95% confidence interval 1.5–2.5) when treatment was started on the first day of illness.
Conclusions
The patients described here represent a cross-section of infected individuals that were identified by temperature screening and symptom questionnaires at the airport, as well as mildly symptomatic to moderately ill patients who self-reported to hospitals. Data are observational and, although they are suggestive, it is not possible to be certain whether the containment efforts delayed community transmission in Vietnam. Viral clearance data assessed by RT-PCR showed a rapid therapeutic response to oseltamivir.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and about half a million people die as a result. These yearly seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that the immune response produced by infection with one year's virus provides only partial protection against the next year's virus. Sometimes, however, a very different influenza virus emerges to which people have virtually no immunity. Such viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) and can kill millions of people. Consequently, when the first case of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (2009 H1N1, swine flu) occurred in March 2009 in Mexico, alarm bells rang. National and international public health agencies quickly issued advice about how the public could help to control the spread of the virus and, as the virus spread, some countries banned flights from affected regions and instigated screening for influenza-like illness at airports. However, despite everyone's efforts, the virus spread rapidly and on June 11, 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, little is known about the spread of and response to 2009 H1N1 in tropical countries. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the early progression of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the treatment of infected patients. On April 27, 2009, when WHO announced that human-to-human transmission of 2009 H1N1 was occurring, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health mandated airport body temperature scans and symptom questionnaire screening of travelers arriving in Vietnam's international airports. Suspected cases were immediately transferred to in-hospital isolation, screened for virus using a sensitive test called PCR, and treated with the anti-influenza drug oseltamivir if positive. The first case of 2009 H1N1 infection in Vietnam was reported on May 31, 2009 in a student who had returned from the US on May 26, 2009, and, despite these efforts to contain the infection, by the second half of July the virus was circulating in Ho Chi Minh City (community transmission).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used reports from the Ministry of Health and relevant health authorities and clinical and laboratory data for people infected with 2009 H1N1 and isolated in hospital to reconstruct the initial outbreak and the establishment of community transmission in Ho Chi Minh City. Between April 27 and July 24 2009, three-quarters of a million passengers arriving in the city on international flights were screened at the airport. 200 passenger tested positive for 2009 H1N1 as did 121 nontravelers who were identified during this period after self-reporting illness or through contact tracing. The infected individuals spent 79% of the days when they tested positive for 2009 H1N1 by PCR (days when they were infectious) in isolation; 60% of their PCR-positive days were spent in isolation and treatment. Importantly, travelers and nontravelers spent 10% and 42.2%, respectively, of their potentially infectious time in the community. None of the patients became severely ill but 61% experienced an influenza-like illness. Finally, the average time from starting treatment to clearance of the virus was between 2.6 and 2.8 days for patients who began treatment 1 to 4 days after becoming ill; for those who started treatment on the first day of illness, the average virus clearance time was 2.0 days.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, although limited by missing data, suggest that the strict containment measures introduced early in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City may have reduced the circulation of infected people in the community. This reduction in circulation might have delayed the onset of community transmission, suggest the researchers, but because the study was observational, this possibility cannot be proven. However, importantly, these findings show that the containment measures were unable to prevent the eventual establishment of pandemic influenza in Vietnam, presumably because many imported cases were not detected by airport screening. Finally, these findings suggest that in Vietnam, as in other countries, 2009 H1N1 causes a mild disease and that this disease responds quickly to treatment with oseltamivir whenever treatment is started in relation to the onset of illness.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000277.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on H1N1 influenza and how to prevent its spread
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides information on H1N1, avian, and pandemic influenza
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza and has detailed information on H1N1 influenza (in several languages); the WHO Representative Office in Vietnam provides an overview of the current 2009 H1N1 situation in Vietnam
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on H1N1 influenza
Wikipedia has a timeline of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000277
PMCID: PMC2872648  PMID: 20502525
20.  Estimates of Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe, 2009–2010: Results of Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) Multicentre Case-Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000388.
Results from a European multicentre case-control study reported by Marta Valenciano and colleagues suggest good protection by the pandemic monovalent H1N1 vaccine against pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine on H1N1.
Background
A multicentre case-control study based on sentinel practitioner surveillance networks from seven European countries was undertaken to estimate the effectiveness of 2009–2010 pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines against medically attended influenza-like illness (ILI) laboratory-confirmed as pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1).
Methods and Findings
Sentinel practitioners swabbed ILI patients using systematic sampling. We included in the study patients meeting the European ILI case definition with onset of symptoms >14 days after the start of national pandemic vaccination campaigns. We compared pH1N1 cases to influenza laboratory-negative controls. A valid vaccination corresponded to >14 days between receiving a dose of vaccine and symptom onset. We estimated pooled vaccine effectiveness (VE) as 1 minus the odds ratio with the study site as a fixed effect. Using logistic regression, we adjusted VE for potential confounding factors (age group, sex, month of onset, chronic diseases and related hospitalizations, smoking history, seasonal influenza vaccinations, practitioner visits in previous year). We conducted a complete case analysis excluding individuals with missing values and a multiple multivariate imputation to estimate missing values. The multivariate imputation (n = 2902) adjusted pandemic VE (PIVE) estimates were 71.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 45.6–85.5) overall; 78.4% (95% CI 54.4–89.8) in patients <65 years; and 72.9% (95% CI 39.8–87.8) in individuals without chronic disease. The complete case (n = 1,502) adjusted PIVE were 66.0% (95% CI 23.9–84.8), 71.3% (95% CI 29.1–88.4), and 70.2% (95% CI 19.4–89.0), respectively. The adjusted PIVE was 66.0% (95% CI −69.9 to 93.2) if vaccinated 8–14 days before ILI onset. The adjusted 2009–2010 seasonal influenza VE was 9.9% (95% CI −65.2 to 50.9).
Conclusions
Our results suggest good protection of the pandemic monovalent vaccine against medically attended pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine. However, the late availability of the pandemic vaccine and subsequent limited coverage with this vaccine hampered our ability to study vaccine benefits during the outbreak period. Future studies should include estimation of the effectiveness of the new trivalent vaccine in the upcoming 2010–2011 season, when vaccination will occur before the influenza season starts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Following the World Health Organization's declaration of pandemic phase six in June 2009, manufacturers developed vaccines against pandemic influenza A 2009 (pH1N1). On the basis of the scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission initially granted marketing authorization to three pandemic vaccines for use in European countries. During the autumn of 2009, most European countries included the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine and the pandemic vaccine in their influenza vaccination programs.
The Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe network (established to monitor seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness) conducted seven case-control and three cohort studies in seven European countries in 2009–2010 to estimate the effectiveness of the pandemic and seasonal vaccines. Data from the seven pilot case-control studies were pooled to provide overall adjusted estimates of vaccine effectiveness.
Why Was This Study Done?
After seasonal and pandemic vaccines are made available to populations, it is necessary to estimate the effectiveness of the vaccines at the population level during every influenza season. Therefore, this study was conducted in European countries to estimate the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness against people presenting to their doctor with influenza-like illness who were confirmed (by laboratory tests) to be infected with pH1N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a multicenter case-control study on the basis of practitioner surveillance networks from seven countries—France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Spain. Patients consulting a participating practitioner for influenza-like illness had a nasal or throat swab taken within 8 days of symptom onset. Cases were swabbed patients who tested positive for pH1N1. Patients presenting with influenza-like illness whose swab tested negative for any influenza virus were controls.
Individuals were considered vaccinated if they had received a dose of the vaccine more than 14 days before the date of onset of influenza-like illness and unvaccinated if they were not vaccinated at all, or if the vaccine was given less than 15 days before the onset of symptoms. The researchers analyzed pandemic influenza vaccination effectiveness in those vaccinated less than 8 days, those vaccinated between and including 8 and 14 days, and those vaccinated more than 14 days before onset of symptoms compared to those who had never been vaccinated.
The researchers used modeling (taking account of all potential confounding factors) to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness and stratified the adjusted pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and the adjusted seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in three age groups (<15, 15–64, and ≥65 years of age).
The adjusted results suggest that the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine did not protect against pH1N1 illness. However, one dose of the pandemic vaccines used in the participating countries conferred good protection (65.5%–100% according to various stratifications performed) against pH1N1 in people who attended their practitioner with influenza-like illness, especially in people aged <65 years and in those without any chronic disease. Furthermore, good pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness was observed as early as 8 days after vaccination.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study provide early estimates of the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness suggesting that the monovalent pandemic vaccines have been effective. The findings also give an indication of the vaccine effectiveness for the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 strain included in the 2010–2011 seasonal vaccines, although specific vaccine effectiveness studies will have to be conducted to verify if similar good effectiveness are observed with 2010–2011 trivalent vaccines. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because of limitations in the pandemic context (late timing of the studies, low incidence, low vaccine coverage leading to imprecise estimates) and potential biases due the study design, confounding factors, and missing values. The researchers recommend that in future season studies, the sample size per country should be enlarged in order to allow for precise pooled and stratified analyses.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388.
The World Health Organization has information on H1N1 vaccination
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fact sheet on the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus
The US Department of Health and Human services has a comprehensive website on flu
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides information on 2009 H1N1 pandemic
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control presents a summary of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Europe and elsewhere
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388
PMCID: PMC3019108  PMID: 21379316
21.  Spatial Dynamics of Human-Origin H1 Influenza A Virus in North American Swine 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(6):e1002077.
The emergence and rapid global spread of the swine-origin H1N1/09 pandemic influenza A virus in humans underscores the importance of swine populations as reservoirs for genetically diverse influenza viruses with the potential to infect humans. However, despite their significance for animal and human health, relatively little is known about the phylogeography of swine influenza viruses in the United States. This study utilizes an expansive data set of hemagglutinin (HA1) sequences (n = 1516) from swine influenza viruses collected in North America during the period 2003–2010. With these data we investigate the spatial dissemination of a novel influenza virus of the H1 subtype that was introduced into the North American swine population via two separate human-to-swine transmission events around 2003. Bayesian phylogeographic analysis reveals that the spatial dissemination of this influenza virus in the US swine population follows long-distance swine movements from the Southern US to the Midwest, a corn-rich commercial center that imports millions of swine annually. Hence, multiple genetically diverse influenza viruses are introduced and co-circulate in the Midwest, providing the opportunity for genomic reassortment. Overall, the Midwest serves primarily as an ecological sink for swine influenza in the US, with sources of virus genetic diversity instead located in the Southeast (mainly North Carolina) and South-central (mainly Oklahoma) regions. Understanding the importance of long-distance pig transportation in the evolution and spatial dissemination of the influenza virus in swine may inform future strategies for the surveillance and control of influenza, and perhaps other swine pathogens.
Author Summary
Since 1998, genetically and antigenically diverse influenza A viruses have circulated in North American swine due to continuous cross-species transmission and reassortment with avian and human influenza viruses, presenting a pandemic threat to humans. Millions of swine are transported year-round from the southern United States into the corn-rich Midwest, but the importance of these movements in the spatial dissemination and evolution of the influenza virus in swine is unknown. Using a large data set of influenza virus sequences collected in North American swine during 2003–2010, we investigated the spatial dynamics of two influenza viruses of the H1 subtype that were introduced into swine from humans around 2003. Employing recently developed Bayesian phylogeography methods, we find that the spread of this influenza virus follows the large-scale transport of swine from the South to the Midwest. Based on this pattern of viral migration, we suggest that the genetic diversity of swine influenza viruses in the Midwest is continually augmented by the importation of viruses from source populations located in the South. Understanding the importance of long-distance pig movements in the evolution and spatial dissemination of influenza virus in swine may inform future strategies for the surveillance and control of influenza, and perhaps other swine pathogens.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002077
PMCID: PMC3111536  PMID: 21695237
22.  Evaluating the New York City Emergency Department Syndromic Surveillance for Monitoring Influenza Activity during the 2009-10 Influenza Season 
PLoS Currents  2012;4:e500563f3ea181.
Objective: To use laboratory data to assess the specificity of syndromes used by the New York City emergency department (ED) syndromic surveillance system to monitor influenza activity. Design: For the period from October 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, we examined the correlation between citywide ED syndrome assignment and laboratory-confirmed influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In addition, ED syndromic data from five select NYC hospitals were matched at the patient and visit level to corresponding laboratory reports of influenza and RSV. The matched dataset was used to evaluate syndrome assignment by disease and to calculate the sensitivity and specificity of the influenza-like illness (ILI) syndrome. Results: Citywide ED visits for ILI correlated well with influenza laboratory diagnoses (R=0.92). From October 1, 2009, through March 31, 2010, there were 264,532 ED visits at the five select hospitals, from which the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) received confirmatory laboratory reports of 655 unique cases of influenza and 1348 cases of RSV. The ED visit of most (56%) influenza cases had been categorized in the fever/flu syndrome; only 15% were labeled ILI. Compared to other influenza-related syndromes, ILI had the lowest sensitivity (15%) but the highest specificity (90%) for laboratory-confirmed influenza. Sensitivity and specificity varied by age group and influenza activity level. Conclusions: The ILI syndrome in the NYC ED syndromic surveillance system served as a specific but not sensitive indicator for influenza during the 2009-2010 influenza season. Despite its limited sensitivity, the ILI syndrome can be more informative for tracking influenza trends than the fever/flu or respiratory syndromes because it is less likely to capture cases of other respiratory viruses. However, ED ILI among specific age groups should be interpreted alongside laboratory surveillance data. ILI remains a valuable tool for monitoring influenza activity and trends as it facilitates comparisons nationally and across jurisdictions and is easily communicated to the public.
doi:10.1371/500563f3ea181
PMCID: PMC3441153  PMID: 22984645
23.  Association between the 2008–09 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine and Pandemic H1N1 Illness during Spring–Summer 2009: Four Observational Studies from Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000258.
In three case-control studies and a household transmission cohort, Danuta Skowronski and colleagues find an association between prior seasonal flu vaccination and increased risk of 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu.
Background
In late spring 2009, concern was raised in Canada that prior vaccination with the 2008–09 trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) was associated with increased risk of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1) illness. Several epidemiologic investigations were conducted through the summer to assess this putative association.
Methods and Findings
Studies included: (1) test-negative case-control design based on Canada's sentinel vaccine effectiveness monitoring system in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec; (2) conventional case-control design using population controls in Quebec; (3) test-negative case-control design in Ontario; and (4) prospective household transmission (cohort) study in Quebec. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios for TIV effect on community- or hospital-based laboratory-confirmed seasonal or pH1N1 influenza cases compared to controls with restriction, stratification, and adjustment for covariates including combinations of age, sex, comorbidity, timeliness of medical visit, prior physician visits, and/or health care worker (HCW) status. For the prospective study risk ratios were computed. Based on the sentinel study of 672 cases and 857 controls, 2008–09 TIV was associated with statistically significant protection against seasonal influenza (odds ratio 0.44, 95% CI 0.33–0.59). In contrast, estimates from the sentinel and three other observational studies, involving a total of 1,226 laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 cases and 1,505 controls, indicated that prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV was associated with increased risk of medically attended pH1N1 illness during the spring–summer 2009, with estimated risk or odds ratios ranging from 1.4 to 2.5. Risk of pH1N1 hospitalization was not further increased among vaccinated people when comparing hospitalized to community cases.
Conclusions
Prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV was associated with increased risk of medically attended pH1N1 illness during the spring–summer 2009 in Canada. The occurrence of bias (selection, information) or confounding cannot be ruled out. Further experimental and epidemiological assessment is warranted. Possible biological mechanisms and immunoepidemiologic implications are considered.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and hundreds of thousands of people die as a result. These seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that an immune response produced one year through infection or vaccination provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual vaccination with killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can greatly reduce a person's risk of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs. In most of Canada, vaccination with a mixture of three inactivated viruses (a trivalent inactivated vaccine or TIV) is provided free to children aged 6–23 months, to elderly people, to people with long-term conditions that increase their risk of influenza-related complications, and those who provide care for them; in Ontario, free vaccination is offered to everyone older than 6 months.
In addition, influenza viruses occasionally emerge that are very different and to which human populations have virtually no immunity. These viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) that can kill millions of people. Experts have been warning for some time that an influenza pandemic is long overdue and, in March 2009, the first cases of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (pH1N1; swine flu) occurred in Mexico. The virus spread rapidly and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization declared that a global pandemic of pH1N1 influenza was underway. By the end of February 2010, more than 16,000 people around the world had died from pH1N1.
Why Was This Study Done?
During an investigation of a school outbreak of pH1N1 in the late spring 2009 in Canada, investigators noted that people with illness characterized by fever and coughing had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza more often than individuals without such illness. To assess whether this association between prior vaccination with seasonal 2008–09 TIV and subsequent pH1N1 illness was evident in other settings, researchers in Canada therefore conducted additional studies using different methods. In this paper, the researchers report the results of four additional studies conducted in Canada during the summer of 2009 to assess this possible association.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted four epidemiologic studies. Epidemiology is the study of the causes, distribution, and control of diseases in populations.
Three of the four studies were case-control studies in which the researchers assessed the frequency of prior vaccination with the 2008–09 TIV in people with pH1N1 influenza compared to the frequency among healthy members of the general population or among individuals who had an influenza-like illness but no sign of infection with an influenza virus. The researchers also did a household transmission study in which they collected information about vaccination with TIV among the additional cases of influenza that were identified in 47 households in which a case of laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 influenza had occurred. The first of the case-control studies, which was based on Canada's vaccine effectiveness monitoring system, showed that, as expected, the 2008–09 TIV provided protection against seasonal influenza. However, estimates from all four studies (which included about 1,200 laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 cases and 1,500 controls) showed that prior recipients of the 2008–09 TIV had approximately 1.4–2.5 times increased chances of developing pH1N1 illness that needed medical attention during the spring–summer of 2009 compared to people who had not received the TIV. Prior seasonal vaccination was not associated with an increase in the severity of pH1N1 illness, however. That is, it did not increase the risk of being hospitalized among those with pH1N1 illness.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because all the investigations in this study are “observational,” the people who had been vaccinated might share another unknown characteristic that is actually responsible for increasing their risk of developing pH1N1 illness (“confounding”). Furthermore, the results reported in this study might have arisen by chance, although the consistency of results across the studies makes this unlikely. Thus, the finding of an association between prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV and an increased risk of pH1N1 illness is not conclusive and needs to be investigated further, particularly since some other observational studies conducted in other countries have reported that seasonal vaccination had no influence or may have been associated with reduced chances of pH1N1 illness. If the findings in the current study are real, however, they raise important questions about the biological interactions between seasonal and pandemic influenza strains and vaccines, and about the best way to prevent and control both types of influenza in future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000258.
This article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Lone Simonsen
FightFlu.ca, a Canadian government Web site, provides access to information on pH1N1 influenza
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on H1N1 influenza
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on H1N1, avian and pandemic influenza
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza and has detailed information on pH1N1 influenza (in several languages)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on pH1N1 influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000258
PMCID: PMC2850386  PMID: 20386731
24.  Early Detection of Influenza Activity Using Syndromic Surveillance in Missouri 
Objective
To assess how weekly percent of influenza-like illness (ILI) reported via Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) tracked weekly counts of laboratory confirmed influenza cases in five influenza seasons in order to evaluate the early warning potential of ILI in ESSENCE and improve ongoing influenza surveillance efforts in Missouri.
Introduction
Syndromic surveillance is used routinely to detect outbreaks of disease earlier than traditional methods due to its ability to automatically acquire data in near real-time. Missouri has used emergency department (ED) visits to monitor and track seasonal influenza activity since 2006.
Methods
The Missouri ESSENCE system utilizes data from 84 hospitals, which represents up to 90 percent of all ED visits occurring in Missouri statewide each day. The influenza season is defined as starting during Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) week number 40 (around the first of October) and ending on CDC week 20 of the following year, which is usually at the end of May.
A confirmed influenza case is laboratory confirmed by viral culture, rapid diagnostic tests, or a four-fold rise in antibody titer between acute and convalescent serum samples. Laboratory results are reported on a weekly basis. To assess the severity of influenza activity, all flu seasons were compared with the 2008–09 season, which experienced the lowest influenza activity based on laboratory data. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was applied for this analysis using Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) (version 9.2).
The standard ESSENCE ILI subsyndrome includes ED chief complaints that contain keywords such as “flu”, “flulike”, “influenza” or “fever plus cough” or “fever plus sore throat”. The ESSENCE ILI weekly percent is the number of ILI visits divided by total ED visits.
Time series of weekly percent of ILI in ESSENCE were compared to weekly counts of laboratory confirmed influenza cases. Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated using SAS. The baseline refers to the mean of three flu seasons with low influenza activity (2006–07, 2008–09 and 2010–11 seasons). The threshold was calculated as this baseline plus three standard deviations.
The early warning potential of the ESSENCE weekly ILI percent was evaluated for five consecutive influenza seasons, beginning in 2006. This was accomplished by calculating the time lag between the first ESSENCE ILI warning versus the first lab confirmed influenza warning. A warning was identified if either lab confirmed case counts or weekly percent of ILI crossed over their respective baselines.
Results
For each influenza season evaluated, weekly ILI rates reported via ESSENCE were significantly correlated with weekly counts of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases (Table 1). The baseline of ILI activity in ESSENCE was 1.8 ILI /100 ED visits/week and the threshold was set at 4.1 ILI visits per 100 ED visits/week. The ESSENCE ILI baseline provided, on average, two weeks of advanced warning for seasonal influenza activity. Figure 1 shows that two influenza seasons (2007–08 and 2009–10) were more severe than others examined based on the ESSENCE percent ILI threshold analysis, this result is consistent with the examination of severity of influenza activity based on lab confirmed influenza data (p<0.05).
Conclusions
The significant correlation between ILI surveillance in ESSENCE and laboratory confirmed influenza cases justifies the use of weekly ILI percent in ESSENCE to describe seasonal influenza activity. The ESSENCE ILI baseline and threshold provided advanced warning of influenza and allowed for the classification of influenza severity in the community.
PMCID: PMC3692881
ESSENCE; syndromic surveillance; influenza-like illness (ILI); baseline; threshold
25.  The Role of Environmental Transmission in Recurrent Avian Influenza Epidemics 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(4):e1000346.
Avian influenza virus (AIV) persists in North American wild waterfowl, exhibiting major outbreaks every 2–4 years. Attempts to explain the patterns of periodicity and persistence using simple direct transmission models are unsuccessful. Motivated by empirical evidence, we examine the contribution of an overlooked AIV transmission mode: environmental transmission. It is known that infectious birds shed large concentrations of virions in the environment, where virions may persist for a long time. We thus propose that, in addition to direct fecal/oral transmission, birds may become infected by ingesting virions that have long persisted in the environment. We design a new host–pathogen model that combines within-season transmission dynamics, between-season migration and reproduction, and environmental variation. Analysis of the model yields three major results. First, environmental transmission provides a persistence mechanism within small communities where epidemics cannot be sustained by direct transmission only (i.e., communities smaller than the critical community size). Second, environmental transmission offers a parsimonious explanation of the 2–4 year periodicity of avian influenza epidemics. Third, very low levels of environmental transmission (i.e., few cases per year) are sufficient for avian influenza to persist in populations where it would otherwise vanish.
Author Summary
Avian influenza viruses (AIVs) in wild waterfowl constitute the historic source of human influenza viruses, having a rich pool of genetic and antigenic diversity that often leads to cross-species transmission. Although the emergence of H5N1 avian influenza virus onto the international scene has captured the most attention, we do not as yet understand the mechanisms that underpin AIV persistence and dynamics in the wild. We developed a novel host–pathogen model intended to describe the epidemiology of low pathogenic AIV in temperate environments. Our model takes into account seasonality in migration and breeding together with multiple modes of transmission. AIVs have been detected in unconcentrated lake water, soil swabs, and mud samples. Laboratory experiments show that AIVs persist and remain infectious in water for extended periods. However, so far, the possibility of environmental transmission of AIV has been largely overlooked. Our work shows that environmental transmission provides a parsimonious explanation for the patterns of persistence and outbreaks of AIV documented in the literature. In addition to their scientific importance, our conclusions impact the design of control policies for avian influenza by emphasizing the dramatic and long-term role that environmental persistence of pathogens may play at the epidemic level.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000346
PMCID: PMC2660440  PMID: 19360126

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