Tracking influenza’s steps and targets

According to the last news from FluNews Europe, the current wave of influenza is causing a higher level of mortality among elderly people compared to the four previous seasons. In fact, an excess of all-cause mortality among the elderly (aged ≥65 years), concomitant with increased influenza activity and the predominance of A(H3N2) viruses, has been observed in recent weeks in Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales).

Caroline Brown, programme manager for influenza and other respiratory pathogens at WHO/Europe, explains that ”the A(H3N2) virus is dominating so far this season, and we already know this subtype causes severe disease in the elderly“. For this reasons, ”clinicians should be aware that the A(H3N2) component of this year’s vaccine will most likely provide somewhat reduced protection. So it’s especially important to follow WHO guidelines on the use of influenza-specific antivirals when treating patients and also control or prevent outbreaks that can occur in nursing homes”.

”Although the vaccine we have this year is not a perfect match, it’s still the best chance people have of getting protected”, continues Dr Brown. “In other words, it might not stop you getting flu but it could mean you are not as unwell as you might have been if you were not vaccinated“.

Trends in Europe

Each year influenza occurs in Europe with an annual attack rate estimated at 10% while influenza-related complications can result in hospitalization among hundreds of thousands of people. The highest risk of complication occurs among adults aged 65 years and older, younger children, and people of any age with chronic conditions (such as chronic heart or metabolic diseases like diabetes), or weakened immune systems. However, everyone is at risk of developing serious complications (including pneumonia, myocarditis and encephalitis) that may result in death.

Influenza surveillance

Influenza surveillance in the EU and WHO European Region is based on nationally organized networks of primary care physicians, mostly general practitioners (GPs), covering at least 1–5% of the population in their countries. Depending on the country, physicians report the weekly number of patients seen with influenza-like illness (ILI) or acute respiratory infection (ARI), or both, to the national focal point for influenza surveillance. Primary care surveillance for influenza in the Region is mostly based on sentinel systems (i.e. data are collected and reported only from selected facilities), although some countries collect data on ILI or ARI from all health facilities in the country (universal surveillance). A subset of specimens from sentinel ILI and ARI patients is tested for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. In addition, some countries, mainly in the eastern part of the European Region, are conducting sentinel surveillance for hospitalized cases with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) according to standard case definitions.

National influenza centres (NICs) are institutions designated by countries’ ministries of health and recognized by WHO to participate in the work of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System. NICs receive respiratory specimens from a range of sources in their countries (so-called non-sentinel sources, such as hospital laboratories, small outbreaks in schools and nursing homes, and similar settings) and provide virological data on characteristics of circulating influenza viruses according to influenza type and subtype (A(H3N2) and A(H1N1)pdm09) or lineage (B/Victoria or B/Yamagata).

Data are reported from the national level to ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe through The European Surveillance System (TESSy) on a weekly basis during the influenza surveillance season (week 40 to week 20 in the following year).

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence