Open Access Research article

Seasonal effects of influenza on mortality in a subtropical city

Lin Yang1, Chit Ming Wong1*, King Pan Chan1, Patsy Yuen Kwan Chau1, Chun Quan Ou12, Kwok Hung Chan3 and JS Malik Peiris34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong

2 School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Southern Medical University, 1838 North Guangzhou Avenue, Guangzhou, PR China

3 Department of Microbiology, The University of Hong Kong, 102 Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

4 HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, 8 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:133  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-133

Published: 22 August 2009



Influenza has been associated with a heavy burden of mortality. In tropical or subtropical regions where influenza viruses circulate in the community most of the year, it is possible that there are seasonal variations in the effects of influenza on mortality, because of periodic changes in environment and host factors as well as the frequent emergence of new antigenically drifted virus strains. In this paper we explored this seasonal effect of influenza.


A time-varying coefficient Poisson regression model was fitted to the weekly numbers of mortality of Hong Kong from 1996 to 2002. Excess risks associated with influenza were calculated to assess the seasonal effects of influenza.


We demonstrated that the effects of influenza were higher in winter and late spring/early summer than other seasons. The two-peak pattern of seasonal effects of influenza was found for cardio-respiratory disease and sub-categories pneumonia and influenza, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cerebrovascular diseases and ischemic heart disease as well as for all-cause deaths.


The results provide insight into the possibility that seasonal factors may have impact on virulence of influenza besides their effects on virus transmission. The results warrant further studies into the mechanisms behind the seasonal effect of influenza.