PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-25 (803688)

Clipboard (0)
None

Related Articles

1.  Situational Awareness of Influenza Activity Based on Multiple Streams of Surveillance Data Using Multivariate Dynamic Linear Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38346.
Background
Multiple sources of influenza surveillance data are becoming more available; however integration of these data streams for situational awareness of influenza activity is less explored.
Methods and Results
We applied multivariate time-series methods to sentinel outpatient and school absenteeism surveillance data in Hong Kong during 2004–2009. School absenteeism data and outpatient surveillance data experienced interruptions due to school holidays and changes in public health guidelines during the pandemic, including school closures and the establishment of special designated flu clinics, which in turn provided ‘drop-in’ fever counts surveillance data. A multivariate dynamic linear model was used to monitor influenza activity throughout epidemics based on all available data. The inferred level followed influenza activity closely at different times, while the inferred trend was less competent with low influenza activity. Correlations between inferred level and trend from the multivariate model and reference influenza activity, measured by the product of weekly laboratory influenza detection rates and weekly general practitioner influenza-like illness consultation rates, were calculated and compared with those from univariate models. Over the whole study period, there was a significantly higher correlation (ρ = 0.82, p≤0.02) for the inferred trend based on the multivariate model compared to other univariate models, while the inferred trend from the multivariate model performed as well as the best univariate model in the pre-pandemic and the pandemic period. The inferred trend and level from the multivariate model was able to match, if not outperform, the best univariate model albeit with missing data plus drop-in and drop-out of different surveillance data streams. An overall influenza index combining level and trend was constructed to demonstrate another potential use of the method.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrate the potential use of multiple streams of influenza surveillance data to promote situational awareness about the level and trend of seasonal and pandemic influenza activity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038346
PMCID: PMC3364986  PMID: 22675456
2.  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
3.  Enhanced Influenza Surveillance using Telephone Triage Data in the VA ESSENCE Biosurveillance System 
Objective
To evaluate the utility and timeliness of telephone triage (TT) for influenza surveillance in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Introduction
Telephone triage is a relatively new data source available to biosurveillance systems.1–2 Because early detection and warning is a high priority, many biosurveillance systems have begun to collect and analyze data from non-traditional sources [absenteeism records, over-the-counter drug sales, electronic laboratory reporting, internet searches (e.g. Google Flu Trends) and TT]. These sources may provide disease activity alerts earlier than conventional sources. Little is known about whether VA telephone program influenza data correlates with established influenza biosurveillance.
Methods
Veterans phoning VA’s TT system, and those admitted or seen at a VA facility with influenza or influenza-like-illness (ILI) diagnosis were included in this analysis. Influenza-specific ICD-9-CM coded emergency department (ED) and urgent care (UC) visits, hospitalizations, TT calls, and ILI outpatient visits were analyzed covering 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 influenza seasons (July 11, 2010–April 14, 2012). Data came from 80 VA Medical Centers and over 500 outpatient clinics with complete reporting data for the time period of interest. We calculated Spearman rank-order coefficients, 95% confidence intervals and p-values using Fisher’s z transformation to describe correlation between TT data and other influenza healthcare measures. For comparison of time trends, we plotted data for hospitalizations, ED/UC visits and outpatient ILI syndrome visits against TT encounters. We applied ESSENCE detection algorithms to identify high-level alerts for influenza activity. ESSENCE aberration detection was restricted to the 2011–2012 season because limited historical TT and outpatient data from 2009–2010 was available to accurately predict aberrancy in the 2010–2011 season. We then calculated the peak measure of healthcare utilization during both influenza seasons (2010–2011 and 2011–2012) for each data source and compared timing of peaks and alerts between TT and other healthcare encounters to assess maximum healthcare system usage and timeliness of surveillance.
Results
There were 7,044 influenza-coded calls, 564 hospitalizations, 1,849 emergency/urgent visits, and 416,613 ILI-coded outpatient visits. Spearman rank correlation coefficients were calculated for influenza-coded calls with hospitalizations (0.77); ED/UC visits (0.85); and ILI-outpatient visits (0.88), respectively (P< 0.0001 for all correlations). Peak influenza activity occurred on the same week or within 1 week across all settings for both seasons. For the 2011–2012 season, TT alerted with increased influenza activity before all other settings.
Conclusions
Data from VA telephone care correlates well with other VA data sources for influenza activity. TT may serve to augment these existing clinical data sources and provide earlier alerts of influenza activity. As a national health care system with a large patient population, VA could provide a robust early-warning system for influenza if ongoing biosurveillance activities are combined with TT data. Additional analyses are needed to understand and correlate TT with healthcare utilization and severity of illness.
PMCID: PMC3692747
Surveillance; Influenza; Telephone triage; Veterans
4.  Estimating the Effectiveness of Early Control Measures through School Absenteeism Surveillance in Observed Outbreaks at Rural Schools in Hubei, China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106856.
Background
School absenteeism is a common data source in syndromic surveillance, which allows for the detection of outbreaks at an early stage. Previous studies focused on its correlation with other data sources. In this study, we evaluated the effectiveness of control measures based on early warning signals from school absenteeism surveillance in rural Chinese schools.
Methods
A school absenteeism surveillance system was established in all 17 primary schools in 3 adjacent towns in the Chinese region of Hubei. Three outbreaks (varicella, mumps, and influenza-like illness) were detected and controlled successfully from April 1, 2012, to January 15, 2014. An impulse susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered model was used to fit the epidemics of these three outbreaks. Moreover, it simulated the potential epidemics under interventions resulting from traditional surveillance signals. The effectiveness of the absenteeism-based control measures was evaluated by comparing the simulated datasets.
Results
The school absenteeism system generated 52 signals. Three outbreaks were verified through epidemiological investigation. Compared to traditional surveillance, the school absenteeism system generated simultaneous signals for the varicella outbreak, but 3 days in advance for the mumps outbreak and 2–4 days in advance for the influenza-like illness outbreak. The estimated excess protection rates of control measures based on early signals were 0.0%, 19.0–44.1%, and 29.0–37.0% for the three outbreaks, respectively.
Conclusions
Although not all outbreak control measures can benefit from early signals through school absenteeism surveillance, the effectiveness of early signal-based interventions is obvious. School absenteeism surveillance plays an important role in reducing outbreak spread.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106856
PMCID: PMC4175462  PMID: 25250786
5.  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
6.  Estimation of Influenza Incidence by Age in the 2011/12 Seasons in Japan using SASSy 
Objective
So far, it is difficult to show the incidence rate of influenza in the official sentinel surveillance in Japan. Hence we construct the system which record infectious diseases at schools, kindergartens, and nursery schools, and then can show the accurate incidence rate of influenza in children by age/grade.
Introduction
So as to develop more effective countermeasures against influenza, timely and precise information about influenza activity at schools, kindergartens, and nursery schools may be helpful. At the Infectious Diseases Surveillance Center of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, a School Absenteeism Surveillance System (SASSy) has been in operation since 2009. SASSy monitors the activity of varicella, mumps, mycoplasma pneumonia, pharyngoconjunctival fever, hand-foot-mouth disease, influenza, and many other infectious diseases in schools. In 2010, SASSy was extended to the Nursery School Absenteeism Surveillance System (NSASSy). These systems record the number of absentees due to infectious diseases in each class of all grades of schools every day. As a powerful countermeasure to the pandemic flu of 2009, SASSy was activated in 9 prefectures, in which included more than 6000 schools, and it is gradually being adopted in other prefectures. As of February 2012, 18 prefectures and 4 big cities, which together comprised 15,700 schools (about 35% of all schools in Japan), utilized SASSy. NSASSy is used in more than 4100 nursery schools, which is about 18% of all nursery schools in Japan. Some studies of similar systems were performed in the UK (1), Hong Kong (2), and the USA (3,4), examined surveillance systems for monitoring infectious disease incidence, but the systems to construct in those studies do not operate nationwide like SASSy or NSASSy, and they cannot provide influenza incidence rates in children.
Methods
All schools, kindergartens, and nursery schools in the community, enter data of the absentees due to infectious diseases into the system every day, thereby providing real-time data regarding infectious diseases prevalent in schools, to the schools around, school boards, public health centers, local governments, and medical professionals. It analyzed data for the 2011/2012 season (from September 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012) mainly, but also two seasons (2010/2011 and 2011/2012) were compared in some prefectures. In total, 12 prefectures, which comprised 2,352,839 children, were participated in 2011/2012 season. In the 2010/2011 season, 1,795,766 children of 9 prefectures were analyzed.
Results
The incidence rate in the first grade of elementary schools is the highest both in the two seasons. The highest incidence rate in this grade distributes from 17.8% to 40.3% in 2011/2012 season, and from 11.0% to 30.7% in 2010/2011 season.
Conclusions
This study proved SASSy and NSASSy are quite useful for monitoring of influenza outbreak in schools and it will be gold standard of surveillance for school children in Japan. The present study also showed incidence rate of influenza in children at schools, kindergartens, and nursery schools, and proved the highest incidence was in the first grade of the elementary school. This is the first finding using such the huge number of subjects, which is more than 2 million. The intervention targeting to the weak age/grade is necessary for effective countermeasure and control of influenza and other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC3692790
Surveillance; Influenza; School Absenteeism
7.  Global Mortality Estimates for the 2009 Influenza Pandemic from the GLaMOR Project: A Modeling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001558.
Lone Simonsen and colleagues use a two-stage statistical modeling approach to estimate the global mortality burden of the 2009 influenza pandemic from mortality data obtained from multiple countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Assessing the mortality impact of the 2009 influenza A H1N1 virus (H1N1pdm09) is essential for optimizing public health responses to future pandemics. The World Health Organization reported 18,631 laboratory-confirmed pandemic deaths, but the total pandemic mortality burden was substantially higher. We estimated the 2009 pandemic mortality burden through statistical modeling of mortality data from multiple countries.
Methods and Findings
We obtained weekly virology and underlying cause-of-death mortality time series for 2005–2009 for 20 countries covering ∼35% of the world population. We applied a multivariate linear regression model to estimate pandemic respiratory mortality in each collaborating country. We then used these results plus ten country indicators in a multiple imputation model to project the mortality burden in all world countries. Between 123,000 and 203,000 pandemic respiratory deaths were estimated globally for the last 9 mo of 2009. The majority (62%–85%) were attributed to persons under 65 y of age. We observed a striking regional heterogeneity, with almost 20-fold higher mortality in some countries in the Americas than in Europe. The model attributed 148,000–249,000 respiratory deaths to influenza in an average pre-pandemic season, with only 19% in persons <65 y. Limitations include lack of representation of low-income countries among single-country estimates and an inability to study subsequent pandemic waves (2010–2012).
Conclusions
We estimate that 2009 global pandemic respiratory mortality was ∼10-fold higher than the World Health Organization's laboratory-confirmed mortality count. Although the pandemic mortality estimate was similar in magnitude to that of seasonal influenza, a marked shift toward mortality among persons <65 y of age occurred, so that many more life-years were lost. The burden varied greatly among countries, corroborating early reports of far greater pandemic severity in the Americas than in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. A collaborative network to collect and analyze mortality and hospitalization surveillance data is needed to rapidly establish the severity of future pandemics.
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 (mainly elderly individuals) die as a result. These 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. Influenza viruses also occasionally emerge that are very different. Human populations have virtually no immunity to these new viruses, which can start global epidemics (pandemics) that kill millions of people. The most recent influenza pandemic, which was first recognized in Mexico in March 2009, was caused by the 2009 influenza A H1N1 pandemic (H1N1pdm09) virus. This virus spread rapidly, and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway. H1N1pdm09 caused a mild disease in most people it infected, but by the time WHO announced that the pandemic was over (10 August 2010), there had been 18,632 laboratory-confirmed deaths from H1N1pdm09.
Why Was This Study Done?
The modest number of laboratory-confirmed H1N1pdm09 deaths has caused commentators to wonder whether the public health response to H1N1pdm09 was excessive. However, as is the case with all influenza epidemics, the true mortality (death) burden from H1N1pdm09 is substantially higher than these figures indicate because only a minority of influenza-related deaths are definitively diagnosed by being confirmed in laboratory. Many influenza-related deaths result from secondary bacterial infections or from exacerbation of preexisting chronic conditions, and are not recorded as related to influenza infection. A more complete assessment of the impact of H1N1pdm09 on mortality is essential for the optimization of public health responses to future pandemics. In this modeling study (the Global Pandemic Mortality [GLaMOR] project), researchers use a two-stage statistical modeling approach to estimate the global mortality burden of the 2009 influenza pandemic from mortality data obtained from multiple countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained weekly virology data from the World Health Organization FluNet database and national influenza centers to identify influenza active periods, and obtained weekly national underlying cause-of-death time series for 2005–2009 from collaborators in more than 20 countries (35% of the world's population). They used a multivariate linear regression model to measure the numbers and rates of pandemic influenza respiratory deaths in each of these countries. Then, in the second stage of their analysis, they used a multiple imputation model that took into account country-specific geographical, economic, and health indicators to project the single-country estimates to all world countries. The researchers estimated that between 123,000 and 203,000 pandemic influenza respiratory deaths occurred globally from 1 April through 31 December 2009. Most of these deaths (62%–85%) occurred in people younger than 65 years old. There was a striking regional heterogeneity in deaths, with up to 20-fold higher mortality in Central and South American countries than in European countries. Finally, the model attributed 148,000–249,000 respiratory deaths to influenza in an average pre-pandemic season. Notably, only 19% of these deaths occurred in people younger than 65 years old.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that respiratory mortality from the 2009 influenza pandemic was about 10-fold higher than laboratory-confirmed mortality. The true total mortality burden is likely to be even higher because deaths that occurred late in the winter of 2009–2010 and in later pandemic waves were missed in this analysis, and only pandemic influenza deaths that were recorded as respiratory deaths were included. The lack of single-country estimates from low-income countries may also limit the accuracy of these findings. Importantly, although the researchers' estimates of mortality from H1N1pdm09 and from seasonal influenza were of similar magnitude, the shift towards mortality among younger people means that more life-years were lost during the 2009 influenza pandemic than during an average pre-pandemic influenza season. Although the methods developed by the GLaMOR project can be used to make robust and comparable mortality estimates in future influenza pandemics, the lack of timeliness of such estimates needs to be remedied. One potential remedy, suggest the researchers, would be to establish a collaborative network that analyzes timely hospitalization and/or mortality data provided by sentinel countries. Such a network should be able to provide the rapid and reliable data about the severity of pandemic threats that is needed to guide public health policy decisions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001558.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including archived information on H1N1pdm09
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal and pandemic influenza H1N1pdm09
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on the global response to H1N1pdm09, including a publication on the evolution of H1N1pdm09 (some information in several languages). Information on FluNet, a global tool for influenza surveillance, is also available
Public Health England provides information on pandemic influenza and archived information on H1N1pdm09
More information for patients about H1N1pdm09 is available through Choices, an information resource provided by the UK National Health Service
More information about the GLaMOR project is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001558
PMCID: PMC3841239  PMID: 24302890
8.  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
9.  A Binational Influenza Surveillance Network – California/Baja California 
Objective
To enhance cross-border surveillance for Influenza-Like-Illness (ILI) in the California/Baja California (CA/BC) border region through the formation of a border binational surveillance network.
Introduction
In response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the Early Warning Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (EWIDS) Office of Binational Border Health in the California Department of Public Health sought to strengthen outpatient ILI surveillance along the CA/BC border by creating the first binational influenza surveillance network in the region. The establishment of this network was crucial for enhancing cross-border situational awareness of influenza activity, especially in a region characterized by high levels of population mobility.
Methods
During summer of 2009, an assessment of current ILI surveillance activities in the CA/BC border region was conducted. Findings were utilized to guide recruitment efforts and build a cross-border surveillance network. In CA the assessment revealed that sentinel sites in the border region participating in CDC’s ILINet surveillance program were primarily pediatric or school-based clinics and that family practice patients were not equally represented. In BC the need to enhance surveillance among the private sector was identified, particularly among patients belonging to binational healthcare service plans. These plans offer care to US workforce individuals who seek medical care in BC. Other needs identified included the need to enhance surveillance among underserved populations such as farm workers and tribal communities which were not currently being represented. Working together with partners from both sides of the border EWIDS initiated efforts to address identified gaps. Over a three-year period EWIDS recruited private and public sector clinics to participate in the network.
Results
As a result of the assessment recruitment efforts were focused on inviting family practice clinics, private clinics, tribal health centers and clinics that provide care to underserved populations to participate in the network. These efforts led to the establishment of the California/Baja California Border Outpatient Provider ILI Surveillance Network, which monitors syndromic and virologic influenza activity. In total EWIDS recruited 22 (13 in CA, 9 in BC) sentinel sites to participate; of these, 17 are family practice sites and 5 are pediatric sites. Additionally, prior to the EWIDS enhancement local tribal health clinics were not represented in the surveillance system. EWIDS efforts resulted in the inclusion of 8 tribal sites in CA and 1 in BC.Figure 1 shows the geographical location of network sites, which includes sites recruited by EWIDS post-assessment as well as preexisting sites. Over the past three influenza seasons (2009–2012) EWIDS recruited sites have constituted 47% of all network sites. Since the 2009–2010 influenza season 483,772 individuals have been screened for ILI by participating sites; of these, 65.8% (n=318,295) were screened by EWIDS recruited sites. Since the establishment of the network EWIDS has focused on sentinel site retention, logistical support, data collection, and dissemination of surveillance results. A weekly report summarizing syndromic and virologic activity is distributed to public health officials throughout the influenza season.
Conclusions
The network serves as an example of a successful binational coordinated effort to establish an early warning system for enhancing situational awareness of influenza activity in a cross-border setting. Next steps include conducting a formal evaluation of the existing surveillance system, enhancing specimen collection for virologic testing, and continuing to foster and build public/private partnerships.
PMCID: PMC3692873
influenza; surveillance; syndromic; virologic; binational
10.  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
11.  Statistical estimates of absenteeism attributable to seasonal and pandemic influenza from the Canadian Labour Force Survey 
Background
As many respiratory viruses are responsible for influenza like symptoms, accurate measures of the disease burden are not available and estimates are generally based on statistical methods. The objective of this study was to estimate absenteeism rates and hours lost due to seasonal influenza and compare these estimates with estimates of absenteeism attributable to the two H1N1 pandemic waves that occurred in 2009.
Methods
Key absenteeism variables were extracted from Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey (LFS). Absenteeism and the proportion of hours lost due to own illness or disability were modelled as a function of trend, seasonality and proxy variables for influenza activity from 1998 to 2009.
Results
Hours lost due to the H1N1/09 pandemic strain were elevated compared to seasonal influenza, accounting for a loss of 0.2% of potential hours worked annually. In comparison, an estimated 0.08% of hours worked annually were lost due to seasonal influenza illnesses. Absenteeism rates due to influenza were estimated at 12% per year for seasonal influenza over the 1997/98 to 2008/09 seasons, and 13% for the two H1N1/09 pandemic waves. Employees who took time off due to a seasonal influenza infection took an average of 14 hours off. For the pandemic strain, the average absence was 25 hours.
Conclusions
This study confirms that absenteeism due to seasonal influenza has typically ranged from 5% to 20%, with higher rates associated with multiple circulating strains. Absenteeism rates for the 2009 pandemic were similar to those occurring for seasonal influenza. Employees took more time off due to the pandemic strain than was typical for seasonal influenza.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-90
PMCID: PMC3103439  PMID: 21486453
12.  Applying Zero-inflated Mixed Model to School Absenteeism Surveillance in Rural China 
Objective
To describe and explore the spatial and temporal variability via ZIMM for absenteeism surveillance in primary school for early detection of infectious disease outbreak in rural China.
Introduction
Absenteeism has great advantages in promoting the early detection of epidemics1. Since August 2011, an integrated syndromic surveillance project (ISSC) has been implemented in China2. Distribution of the absenteeism generally are asymmetry, zero inflation, truncation and non-independence3. For handling these encumbrances, we should apply the Zero-inflated Mixed Model (ZIMM).
Methods
Data for this study was obtained from the web-based data of ISSC in 62 primary schools in two counties of Jiangxi province, China from April 1th, 2012 to June 30st, 2012. The ZIMM was used to explore: 1)the temporal and spatial variability regarding occurrence and intensity of absenteeism simultaneously, and 2) the heterogeneity among the reporting primary schools by introducing random effects into the intercepts. The analyse was processed in the SAS procedure NLMIXED4.
Results
The total 4914 absenteeism events were reported in the 62 primary schools in the study period. The rate of zero report was 49.88% (Fig. 1). According to ZIMM, there are fixed and random effect parameters in this model (Table 1). Firstly, for the fixed parameters, the spatial variable (county) was not significantly different both the occurrence and intensity model, while for the temporal variable (month), the probability of absenteeism occurrence was significantly different over three months (β=−0.165, p =0.026), suggesting a decreasing of school absenteeism from April to June. Meanwhile, a statistical significant difference in the intensity of absenteeism was also found over the three months (β=−0.073, p=0.007). Secondly, the random effect of intensity model was statistically significance (p=0.008), which strongly indicated a heterogeneity in intensity of absenteeism among the surveillance schools. Whereas the random effect of occurrence model by logistic regression showed a non-statistical difference (p=0.774) among the schools suggesting the homogeneity in the occurrence of absenteeism.
Conclusions
School absenteeism data has greater uncertain than many other sources and easier fluctuate by some factors such as holiday, season, family status and geographic distribution. Thus, the spatial and temporal dynamics should be taken into account in controlling fluctuate of absenteeism. Moreover, school absenteeism data are correlated within each school due to repeated measures. Applying the ZIMM, the occurrences and intensity of absenteeism could be evaluated to reduce the bias and improve the prediction precision. The ZIMM is an appropriate tool for health authorities in decision making for public health events.
PMCID: PMC3692942
surveillance; absenteeism; zero-inflated mixed model; occurrence; intensity
13.  School Absenteeism As an Adjunct Surveillance Indicator: Experience during the Second Wave of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic in Quebec, Canada 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34084.
Background
A school absenteeism surveillance system was implemented in the province of Quebec, Canada during the second wave of the 2009 H1N1pandemic. This paper compares this surveillance approach with other available indicators.
Method
All (3432) elementary and high schools from Quebec were included. Each school was required to report through a web-based system any day where the proportion of students absent for influenza-like illness (ILI) exceeded 10% of current school enrolment.
Results
Between October 18 and December 12 2009, 35.6% of all schools met the 10% absenteeism threshold. This proportion was greater in elementary compared to high schools (40% vs 19%) and in smaller compared to larger schools (44% vs 22%). The maximum absenteeism rate was reached the first day of reporting or within the next two days in 55% and 31% of schools respectively. The first reports and subsequent peak in school absenteeism provincially preceded the peak in paediatric hospitalization by two and one weeks, respectively. Trends in school surveillance otherwise mirrored other indicators.
Conclusion
During a pandemic, school outbreak surveillance based on a 10% threshold appears insufficient to trigger timely intervention within a given affected school. However, school surveillance appears well-correlated and slightly anticipatory compared to other population indicators. As such, school absenteeism warrants further evaluation as an adjunct surveillance indicator whose overall utility will depend upon specified objectives, and other existing capacity for monitoring and response.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034084
PMCID: PMC3316605  PMID: 22479531
14.  Evaluating Syndromic surveillance systems at institutions of higher education (IHEs): A retrospective analysis of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic at two universities 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:591.
Background
Syndromic surveillance has been widely adopted as a real-time monitoring tool for timely response to disease outbreaks. During the second wave of the pH1N1 pandemic in Fall 2009, two major universities in Washington, DC collected data that were potentially indicative of influenza-like illness (ILI) cases in students and staff. In this study, our objectives were three-fold. The primary goal of this study was to characterize the impact of pH1N1 on the campuses as clearly as possible given the data available and their likely biases. In addition, we sought to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the data series themselves, in order to inform these two universities and other institutions of higher education (IHEs) about real-time surveillance systems that are likely to provide the most utility in future outbreaks (at least to the extent that it is possible to generalize from this analysis).
Methods
We collected a wide variety of data that covered both student ILI cases reported to medical and non-medical staff, employee absenteeism, and hygiene supply distribution records (from University A only). Communication data were retrieved from university broadcasts, university preparedness websites, and H1N1-related on campus media reports. Regional data based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (CDC ILINet) surveillance network, American College Health Association (ACHA) pandemic influenza surveillance data, and local Google Flu Trends were used as external data sets. We employed a "triangulation" approach for data analysis in which multiple contemporary data sources are compared to identify time patterns that are likely to reflect biases as well as those that are more likely to be indicative of actual infection rates.
Results
Medical personnel observed an early peak at both universities immediately after school began in early September and a second peak in early November; only the second peak corresponded to patterns in the community at large. Self-reported illness to university deans' offices was also relatively increased during mid-term exam weeks. The overall volume of pH1N1-related communication messages similarly peaked twice, corresponding to the two peaks of student ILI cases.
Conclusions
During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, both University A and B experienced a peak number of ILI cases at the beginning of the Fall term. This pattern, seen in surveillance systems at these universities and to a lesser extent in data from other IHEs, most likely resulted from students bringing the virus back to campus from their home states coupled with a sudden increase in population density in dormitories and lecture halls. Through comparison of data from different syndromic surveillance data streams, paying attention to the likely biases in each over time, we have determined, at least in the case of the pH1N1 pandemic, that student health center data more accurately depicted disease transmission on campus at both universities during the Fall 2009 pandemic than other available data sources.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-591
PMCID: PMC3151236  PMID: 21791092
15.  Estimating Infection Attack Rates and Severity in Real Time during an Influenza Pandemic: Analysis of Serial Cross-Sectional Serologic Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(10):e1001103.
This study reports that using serological data coupled with clinical surveillance data can provide real-time estimates of the infection attack rates and severity in an emerging influenza pandemic.
Background
In an emerging influenza pandemic, estimating severity (the probability of a severe outcome, such as hospitalization, if infected) is a public health priority. As many influenza infections are subclinical, sero-surveillance is needed to allow reliable real-time estimates of infection attack rate (IAR) and severity.
Methods and Findings
We tested 14,766 sera collected during the first wave of the 2009 pandemic in Hong Kong using viral microneutralization. We estimated IAR and infection-hospitalization probability (IHP) from the serial cross-sectional serologic data and hospitalization data. Had our serologic data been available weekly in real time, we would have obtained reliable IHP estimates 1 wk after, 1–2 wk before, and 3 wk after epidemic peak for individuals aged 5–14 y, 15–29 y, and 30–59 y. The ratio of IAR to pre-existing seroprevalence, which decreased with age, was a major determinant for the timeliness of reliable estimates. If we began sero-surveillance 3 wk after community transmission was confirmed, with 150, 350, and 500 specimens per week for individuals aged 5–14 y, 15–19 y, and 20–29 y, respectively, we would have obtained reliable IHP estimates for these age groups 4 wk before the peak. For 30–59 y olds, even 800 specimens per week would not have generated reliable estimates until the peak because the ratio of IAR to pre-existing seroprevalence for this age group was low. The performance of serial cross-sectional sero-surveillance substantially deteriorates if test specificity is not near 100% or pre-existing seroprevalence is not near zero. These potential limitations could be mitigated by choosing a higher titer cutoff for seropositivity. If the epidemic doubling time is longer than 6 d, then serial cross-sectional sero-surveillance with 300 specimens per week would yield reliable estimates when IAR reaches around 6%–10%.
Conclusions
Serial cross-sectional serologic data together with clinical surveillance data can allow reliable real-time estimates of IAR and severity in an emerging pandemic. Sero-surveillance for pandemics should be 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 about half a million die as a result. These 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. Occasionally, however, a very different influenza virus emerges to which people have virtually no immunity. Such viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) and kill millions of people. The most recent influenza pandemic began in March 2009 in Mexico, when the first case of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (pdmH1N1) occurred. The virus spread rapidly despite strenuous efforts by national and international public health agencies to contain it, and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway. By the time WHO announced that the pandemic was over (10 August 2010), pdmH1N1 had killed more than 18,000 people.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early in the 2009 influenza pandemic, as in any emerging pandemic, reliable estimates of pdmH1N1's transmissibility (how easily it spreads between people) and severity (the proportion of infected people who needed hospital treatment) were urgently needed to help public health officials plan their response to the pandemic and advise the public about the threat to their health. Because infection with an influenza virus does not always make people ill, the only way to determine the true size and severity of an influenza outbreak is to monitor the occurrence of antibodies (proteins made by the immune system in response to infections) to the influenza virus in the population—so-called serologic surveillance. In this study, the researchers developed a method that uses serologic data to provide real-time estimates of the infection attack rate (IAR; the cumulative occurrence of new infections in a population) and the infection-hospitalization probability (IHP; the proportion of affected individuals that needs to be hospitalized) during an influenza pandemic.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers tested nearly 15,000 serum samples collected in Hong Kong during the first wave of the 2009 pandemic for antibodies to pdmH1N1 and then used a mathematical approach called convolution to estimate IAR and IHP from these serologic data and hospitalization data. They report that if the serological data had been available weekly in real time, they would have been able to obtain reliable estimates of IAR and IHP by one week after, one to two weeks before, and three weeks after the pandemic peak for 5–14 year olds, 15–29 year olds, and 30–59 year olds, respectively. If serologic surveillance had begun three weeks after confirmation of community transmission of pdmH1N1, sample sizes of 150, 350, and 500 specimens per week from 5–14 year olds, 15–19 year olds, and 20–29 year olds, respectively, would have been sufficient to obtain reliable IAR and IHP estimates four weeks before the pandemic peak. However, for 30–59 year olds, even 800 specimens per week would not have generated reliable estimates because of pre-existing antibodies to an H1N1 virus in this age group. Finally, computer simulations of future pandemics indicate that serologic surveillance with 300 serum specimens per week would yield reliable estimates of IAR and IHP as soon as the true IAR reached about 6%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that serologic data together with clinical surveillance data could be used to provide reliable real-time estimates of IARs and severity in an emerging influenza pandemic. Although the number of samples needed to provide accurate estimates of IAR and IHP in real life may vary somewhat from those reported here because of limitations in the design of this study, these findings nevertheless suggest that the level of testing capacity needed to provide real-time estimates of IAR and IHP during an emerging influenza pandemic should be logistically feasible for most developed countries. Moreover, collection of serologic surveillance data from any major city affected early in an epidemic could potentially provide information of global relevance for public health. Thus, the researchers conclude, serologic monitoring should be included in future plans for influenza pandemic preparedness and response and in planning for other pandemics.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001103.
A recent PLoS Medicine Research Article by Riley et al. provides further information on patterns of infection with the pdmH1N1 virus
The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection provides information on pandemic H1N1 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 seasonal, pandemic, and H1N1 influenza
WHO provides information on seasonal influenza and has information on the global response to H1N1 influenza (in several languages)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on H1N1 influenza
More information for patients about H1N1 influenza is available through Choices, an information resource provided by the UK National Health Service
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001103
PMCID: PMC3186812  PMID: 21990967
16.  Improving ILI Surveillance using Hospital Staff Influenza-like Absence (ILA) 
Objective
To address the feasibility and efficiency of a novel syndromic surveillance method, monitoring influenza-like absence (ILA) among hospital staff, to improve national ILI surveillance and inform local hospital preparedness.
Introduction
Surveillance of influenza in the US, UK and other countries is based primarily on measures of influenza-like illness (ILI), through a combination of syndromic surveillance systems, however, this method may not capture the full spectrum of illness or the total burden of disease. Care seeking behaviour may change due to public beliefs, for example more people in the UK sought care for pH1N1 in the summer of 2009 than the winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, resulting in potential inaccurate estimates from ILI (1). There may also be underreporting of or delays in reporting ILI in the community, for example in the UK those with mild illness are less likely to see a GP (2), and visits generally occur two or more days after onset of symptoms (3). Work absences, if the reason is known, could fill these gaps in detection.
Methods
Weekly counts and rates of hospital staff ILA (attributed to colds or influenza) were compared to GP ILI consultation rates (Royal College of General Practitioners Weekly Returns Service)(4) for 15–64 year olds, and positive influenza A test results (PITR) for all inpatients hospitalised in the three London hospitals for which staff data were collected using both retrospective time series and prospective outbreak detection methods implemented in the surveillance package in R (5)
Results
Rates of ILA were about six times higher than rates of ILI. Data on hospital staff ILA demonstrated seasonal trends as defined by ILI. Compared to the ILI rates, ILA demonstrated a more realistic estimate of the relative burden of pandemic H1N1 during July 2009 (1) (Figure). ILA provides potentially earlier warnings than GP ILI as indicated by its ability to predict ILI data for the local region (p < 0.001), as well as its potential for daily ‘real time’ updates. Using outbreak detection methods and examining peak weeks, alarms and thresholds, ILA alarmed, reached threshold rates and peaked consistently earlier or in the same week as ILI and PITR, with the exception of the July 2009, suggesting that it may be predictive of both community and patient cases of influenza (Table).
Conclusions
This study has demonstrated the potential to further explore the usefulness of using ILA data to complement existing national influenza surveillance systems. This work could improve our accuracy in monitoring of influenza and has the potential to improve emergency response to influenza for individual hospitals.
PMCID: PMC3692761
influenza; syndromic surveillance; hospital staff; emergency prepardness
17.  Potential use of multiple surveillance data in the forecast of hospital admissions 
Objective
This paper describes the potential use of multiple influenza surveillance data to forecast hospital admissions for respiratory diseases.
Introduction
A sudden surge in hospital admissions in public hospital during influenza peak season has been a challenge to healthcare and manpower planning. In Hong Kong, the timing of influenza peak seasons are variable and early short-term indication of possible surge may facilitate preparedness which could be translated into strategies such as early discharge or reallocation of extra hospital beds. In this study we explore the potential use of multiple routinely collected syndromic data in the forecast of hospital admissions.
Methods
A multivariate dynamic linear time series model was fitted to multiple syndromic data including influenza-like illness (ILI) rates among networks of public and private general practitioners (GP), and school absenteeism rates, plus drop-in fever count data from designated flu clinics (DFC) that were created during the pandemic. The latent process derived from the model has been used as a measure of the influenza activity [1]. We compare the cross-correlations between estimated influenza level based on multiple surveillance data and GP ILI data, versus accident and emergency hospital admissions with principal diagnoses of respiratory diseases and pneumonia & influenza (P&I).
Results
The estimated influenza activity has higher cross-correlation with respiratory and P&I admissions (ρ=0.66 and 0.73 respectively) compared to that of GP ILI rates (Table 1). Cross correlations drop distinctly after lag 2 for both estimated influenza activity and GP ILI rates.
Conclusions
The use of a multivariate method to integrate information from multiple sources of influenza surveillance data may have the potential to improve forecasting of admission surge of respiratory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3692818
influenza; surveillance; admission; respiratory
18.  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
19.  Evaluation of a school-based influenza surveillance system. 
Public Health Reports  1995;110(3):333-337.
Previous studies have suggested using school-based surveillance to monitor epidemic influenza-like illness in a community. Since the late 1970s, no studies have sought to evaluate this public health measure. The Boulder County Health Department developed, piloted, and implemented a school-based surveillance system beginning with the 1988-89 school year. After five seasons of surveillance, the school-based system was evaluated for sensitivity by comparing the epidemic curves from the school-based system with those of a preexisting communicable disease sentinel surveillance system. Additional attributes evaluated included acceptability, simplicity, timeliness, and overall usefulness. Comparisons of the overall epidemic patterns suggest a close correlation between the two measures for the influenza seasons 1988-89 through 1992-93. The school-based system closely followed the general rise, peak, and fall of epidemic influenza-like illness as measured by the preexisting sentinel system. Three of five epidemic peaks matched on the week of occurrence between the two surveillance systems; for the remaining seasons, 1989-90 and 1991-92, the school-based system peaked 1 week earlier than the sentinel system. The use of school-based surveillance has several positive attributes which suggests schools are an ideal setting for detecting influenza outbreaks, including the epidemiology of influenza which has shown children play an important role in the acquisition and spread of influenza-like illness. Student populations were accessible and easily monitored by absenteeism rates that required no diagnosis or invasive testing. All 44 schools within the school district readily participated in the surveillance of influenza.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC1382129  PMID: 7610226
20.  Automated data extraction from general practice records in an Australian setting: Trends in influenza-like illness in sentinel general practices and emergency departments 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:435.
Background
Influenza intelligence in New South Wales (NSW), Australia is derived mainly from emergency department (ED) presentations and hospital and intensive care admissions, which represent only a portion of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the population. A substantial amount of the remaining data lies hidden in general practice (GP) records. Previous attempts in Australia to gather ILI data from GPs have given them extra work. We explored the possibility of applying automated data extraction from GP records in sentinel surveillance in an Australian setting.
The two research questions asked in designing the study were: Can syndromic ILI data be extracted automatically from routine GP data? How do ILI trends in sentinel general practice compare with ILI trends in EDs?
Methods
We adapted a software program already capable of automated data extraction to identify records of patients with ILI in routine electronic GP records in two of the most commonly used commercial programs. This tool was applied in sentinel sites to gather retrospective data for May-October 2007-2009 and in real-time for the same interval in 2010. The data were compared with that provided by the Public Health Real-time Emergency Department Surveillance System (PHREDSS) and with ED data for the same periods.
Results
The GP surveillance tool identified seasonal trends in ILI both retrospectively and in near real-time. The curve of seasonal ILI was more responsive and less volatile than that of PHREDSS on a local area level. The number of weekly ILI presentations ranged from 8 to 128 at GP sites and from 0 to 18 in EDs in non-pandemic years.
Conclusion
Automated data extraction from routine GP records offers a means to gather data without introducing any additional work for the practitioner. Adding this method to current surveillance programs will enhance their ability to monitor ILI and to detect early warning signals of new ILI events.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-435
PMCID: PMC3118250  PMID: 21645354
21.  Incorporation of School Absenteeism Data into the Maryland Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) 
Objective
The state of Maryland has incorporated 100% of its public school systems into a statewide disease surveillance system. This session will discuss the process, challenges, and best practices for expanding the ESSENCE system to include school absenteeism data as part of disease surveillance. It will also discuss the plans that Maryland has for using this new data source, as well as the potential for further expansion.
Introduction
Syndromic surveillance offers the potential for earlier detection of bioterrorism, outbreaks, and other public health emergencies than traditional disease surveillance. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Office of Preparedness and Response (OP&R) conducts syndromic surveillance using the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE). Since its inception, ESSENCE has been a vital tool for DHMH, providing continuous situational awareness for public health policy decision makers. It has been established in the public health community that syndromic surveillance data, including school absenteeism data, has efficacy in monitoring disease, and specifically, influenza activity. Schools have the potential to play a major role in the spread of disease during an epidemic. Therefore, having school absenteeism data in ESSENCE would provide the opportunity to monitor schools throughout the school year and take appropriate actions to mitigate infections and the spread of disease.
Methods
DHMH partnered with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), local health departments, and local school systems to incorporate school absenteeism data into the syndromic surveillance program. There are 24 local public school systems and 24 local health departments in the state of Maryland. OP&R contacted each local school superintendent and each local health officer to arrange a joint meeting to discuss the expansion of the ESSENCE program to include school absenteeism data. Once the meetings were arranged, OP&R epidemiologists traveled to each local jurisdiction and presented their plan for the ESSENCE expansion. At each meeting were representatives from the local health department, as well as school health, school attendance, and school IT staff. This allowed all questions and concerns to be addressed from both sides. In addition to the targeted meetings and presentations, the Secretary of Health issued an executive order which required all local school systems to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DHMH. This MOU detailed the data elements to be shared with the ESSENCE program and the process by which this would be shared. While this order made data contribution mandatory, the site visits by the OP&R staff created a working relationship and partnership with the local jurisdictions. Data was collected from all public schools in the state including elementary, middle, and high schools.
Results
As of June 30, 2012, Maryland became the first state in the United States to incorporate 100% of its public school systems (1,424 schools) into ESSENCE. Each school system reports absenteeism data daily via an automated secure FTP (sFTP) transfer to DHMH. Due to its unique properties, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) designed a new detection algorithm in ESSENCE specifically for this data source. OP&R epidemiologist review and analyze this data for disease surveillance purposes in conjunction with other data sources in ESSENCE (emergency department chief complaints, poison control center data, thermometer sales data, and over-the-counter medication sales data). Integrating school absenteeism data will provide a more complete analysis of potential public health threats. The process by which Maryland incorporated their public school systems’ data could potentially be used as a best practice for other jurisdictions. Not only was DHMH able to obtain data from all public schools in the state, but the process also enhanced collaboration between local health departments and public school systems.
PMCID: PMC3692827
ESSENCE; Surveillance; Absenteeism
22.  Reassessing Google Flu Trends Data for Detection of Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza: A Comparative Epidemiological Study at Three Geographic Scales 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(10):e1003256.
The goal of influenza-like illness (ILI) surveillance is to determine the timing, location and magnitude of outbreaks by monitoring the frequency and progression of clinical case incidence. Advances in computational and information technology have allowed for automated collection of higher volumes of electronic data and more timely analyses than previously possible. Novel surveillance systems, including those based on internet search query data like Google Flu Trends (GFT), are being used as surrogates for clinically-based reporting of influenza-like-illness (ILI). We investigated the reliability of GFT during the last decade (2003 to 2013), and compared weekly public health surveillance with search query data to characterize the timing and intensity of seasonal and pandemic influenza at the national (United States), regional (Mid-Atlantic) and local (New York City) levels. We identified substantial flaws in the original and updated GFT models at all three geographic scales, including completely missing the first wave of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 pandemic, and greatly overestimating the intensity of the A/H3N2 epidemic during the 2012/2013 season. These results were obtained for both the original (2008) and the updated (2009) GFT algorithms. The performance of both models was problematic, perhaps because of changes in internet search behavior and differences in the seasonality, geographical heterogeneity and age-distribution of the epidemics between the periods of GFT model-fitting and prospective use. We conclude that GFT data may not provide reliable surveillance for seasonal or pandemic influenza and should be interpreted with caution until the algorithm can be improved and evaluated. Current internet search query data are no substitute for timely local clinical and laboratory surveillance, or national surveillance based on local data collection. New generation surveillance systems such as GFT should incorporate the use of near-real time electronic health data and computational methods for continued model-fitting and ongoing evaluation and improvement.
Author Summary
In November 2008, Google Flu Trends was launched as an open tool for influenza surveillance in the United States. Engineered as a system for early detection and daily monitoring of the intensity of seasonal influenza epidemics, Google Flu Trends uses internet search data and a proprietary algorithm to provide a surrogate measure of influenza-like illness in the population. During its first season of operation, the novel A/H1N1-pdm influenza virus emerged, heterogeneously causing sporadic outbreaks in the spring and summer of 2009 across many parts of the United States. During the autumn 2009 pandemic wave, Google updated their model with a new algorithm and case definition; the updated model has run prospectively since. Our study asks whether Google Flu Trends provides accurate detection and monitoring of influenza at the national, regional and local geographic scales. Reliable local surveillance is important to reduce uncertainty and improve situational awareness during seasonal epidemics and pandemics. We found substantial flaws with the original and updated Google Flu Trends models, including missing the emergence of the 2009 pandemic and overestimating the 2012/2013 influenza season epidemic. Our work supports the development of local near-real time computerized syndromic surveillance systems, and collaborative regional, national and international networks.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003256
PMCID: PMC3798275  PMID: 24146603
23.  Comparison of five influenza surveillance systems during the 2009 pandemic and their association with media attention 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:881.
Background
During the 2009 influenza pandemic period, routine surveillance of influenza-like-illness (ILI) was conducted in The Netherlands by a network of sentinel general practitioners (GPs). In addition during the pandemic period, four other ILI/influenza surveillance systems existed. For pandemic preparedness, we evaluated the performance of the sentinel system and the others to assess which of the four could be useful additions in the future. We also assessed whether performance of the five systems was influenced by media reports during the pandemic period.
Methods
The trends in ILI consultation rates reported by sentinel GPs from 20 April 2009 through 3 January 2010 were compared with trends in data from the other systems: ILI cases self-reported through the web-based Great Influenza Survey (GIS); influenza-related web searches through Google Flu Trends (GFT); patients admitted to hospital with laboratory-confirmed pandemic influenza, and detections of influenza virus by laboratories. In addition, correlations were determined between ILI consultation rates of the sentinel GPs and data from the four other systems. We also compared the trends of the five surveillance systems with trends in pandemic-related newspaper and television coverage and determined correlation coefficients with and without time lags.
Results
The four other systems showed similar trends and had strong correlations with the ILI consultation rates reported by sentinel GPs. The number of influenza virus detections was the only system to register a summer peak. Increases in the number of newspaper articles and television broadcasts did not precede increases in activity among the five surveillance systems.
Conclusions
The sentinel general practice network should remain the basis of influenza surveillance, as it integrates epidemiological and virological information and was able to maintain stability and continuity under pandemic pressure. Hospital and virological data are important during a pandemic, tracking the severity, molecular and phenotypic characterization of the viruses and confirming whether ILI incidence is truly related to influenza virus infections. GIS showed that web-based, self-reported ILI can be a useful addition, especially if virological self-sampling is added and an epidemic threshold could be determined. GFT showed negligible added value.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-881
PMCID: PMC3849360  PMID: 24063523
Influenza virus; Pandemic; Surveillance; Influenza-like illness; Media attention
24.  Evaluation of school absenteeism data for early outbreak detection, New York City 
BMC Public Health  2005;5:105.
Background
School absenteeism data may have utility as an early indicator of disease outbreaks, however their value should be critically examined. This paper describes an evaluation of the utility of school absenteeism data for early outbreak detection in New York City (NYC).
Methods
To assess citywide temporal trends in absenteeism, we downloaded three years (2001–02, 2002–03, 2003–04) of daily school attendance data from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) website. We applied the CuSum method to identify aberrations in the adjusted daily percent absent. A spatial scan statistic was used to assess geographic clustering in absenteeism for the 2001–02 academic year.
Results
Moderate increases in absenteeism were observed among children during peak influenza season. Spatial analysis detected 790 significant clusters of absenteeism among elementary school children (p < 0.01), two of which occurred during a previously reported outbreak.
Conclusion
Monitoring school absenteeism may be moderately useful for detecting large citywide epidemics, however, school-level data were noisy and we were unable to demonstrate any practical value in using cluster analysis to detect localized outbreaks. Based on these results, we will not implement prospective monitoring of school absenteeism data, but are evaluating the utility of more specific school-based data for outbreak detection.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-5-105
PMCID: PMC1260024  PMID: 16212669
25.  Influenza epidemiology in Italy two years after the 2009–2010 pandemic 
Since 2000, a sentinel surveillance of influenza, INFLUNET, exists in Italy. It is coordinated by the Ministry of Health and is divided into two parts; one of these is coordinated by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the other by the Inter-University Centre for Research on Influenza and other Transmissible Infections (CIRI-IT). The influenza surveillance system performs its activity from the 42nd week of each year (mid-October) to the 17th week of the following year (late April). Only during the pandemic season (2009/2010) did surveillance continue uninterruptedly. Sentinel physicians – about 1,200 general practitioners and independent pediatricians – send in weekly reports of cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) among their patients (over 2% of the population of Italy) to these centers.
In order to estimate the burden of pandemic and seasonal influenza, we examined the epidemiological data collected over the last 3 seasons (2009–2012). On the basis of the incidences of ILIs at different ages, we estimated that: 4,882,415; 5,519,917; and 4,660,601 cases occurred in Italy in 2009–2010, 2010–2011 and 2011–2012, respectively.
Considering the ILIs, the most part of cases occurred in < 14 y old subjects and especially in 5–14 y old individuals, about 30% and 21% of cases respectively during 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 influenza seasons. In 2011–2012, our evaluation was of about 4.7 million of cases, and as in the previous season, the peak of cases regarded subjects < 14 y (about 29%).
A/California/07/09 predominated in 2009–2010 and continued to circulate in 2010–2011. During 2010–2011 B/Brisbane/60/08 like viruses circulated and A/H3N2 influenza type was sporadically present. H3N2 (A/Perth/16/2009 and A/Victoria/361/2011) was the predominant influenza type-A virus that caused illness in the 2011–2012 season. Many strains of influenza viruses were present in the epidemiological scenario in 2009–2012.
In the period 2009–2012, overall vaccination coverage was low, never exceeding 20% of the Italian population. Among the elderly, coverage rates grew from 40% in 1999 to almost 70% in 2005–2006, but subsequently decreased, in spite of the pandemic; this trend reveals a slight, though constant, decline in compliance with vaccination.
Our data confirm that 2009 pandemics had had a spread particularly important in infants and schoolchildren, and this fact supports the strategy to vaccinate schoolchildren at least until 14 y of age. Furthermore, the low levels of vaccination coverage in Italy reveal the need to improve the catch-up of at-risk subjects during annual influenza vaccination campaigns, and, if possible, to extend free vaccination to at least all 50–64-y-old subjects.
Virologic and epidemiological surveillance remains critical for detection of evolving influenza viruses and to monitor the health and economic burden in all age class annually.
doi:10.4161/hv.23235
PMCID: PMC3891712  PMID: 23292210
coverage vaccination; epidemiology; influenza; influenza vaccine; influenza-like illness; pandemics

Results 1-25 (803688)