Epidemiology and Infection

Influenza

Use of a large general practice syndromic surveillance system to monitor the progress of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic 2009 in the UK

S. E. HARCOURTa1 c1, G. E. SMITHa1, A. J. ELLIOTa1, R. PEBODYa2, A. CHARLETTa3, S. IBBOTSONa1, M. REGANa4 and J. HIPPISLEY-COXa5

a1 Real-time Syndromic Surveillance Team, Health Protection Agency West Midlands, Birmingham, UK

a2 Immunisation, Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, London, UK

a3 Statistics, Modelling and Bioinformatics, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, London, UK

a4 East Midlands Regional Office, Health Protection Agency, Nottingham, UK

a5 Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

SUMMARY

The Health Protection Agency/QSurveillance national surveillance system utilizes QSurveillance® a recently developed general practitioner database covering over 23 million people in the UK. We describe the spread of the first wave of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic 2009 using data on consultations for influenza-like illness (ILI), respiratory illness and prescribing for influenza from 3400 contributing general practices. Daily data, provided from 27 April 2009 to 28 January 2010, were used to give a timely overview for those managing the pandemic nationally and locally. The first wave particularly affected London and the West Midlands with a peak in ILI in week 30. Children aged between 1 and 15 years had consistently high consultation rates for ILI. Daily ILI rates were used for modelling national weekly case estimates. The system enabled the ‘real-time’ monitoring of the pandemic to a small geographical area, linking morbidity and prescribing for influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

(Accepted March 02 2011)

(Online publication April 08 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: S. E. Harcourt, Health Protection Scientist, Real Time Syndromic Surveillance Team, Health Protection Agency West Midlands, 6th Floor, 5 St Philip's Place, Birmingham, UK, B3 2PW. (Email: Sally.harcourt@hpa.org.uk)

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