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Open Access Research article

A profile of the online dissemination of national influenza surveillance data

Calvin KY Cheng, Eric HY Lau*, Dennis KM Ip, Alfred SY Yeung, Lai Ming Ho and Benjamin J Cowling

Author affiliations

Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2009, 9:339  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-339

Published: 16 September 2009

Abstract

Background

Influenza surveillance systems provide important and timely information to health service providers on trends in the circulation of influenza virus and other upper respiratory tract infections. Online dissemination of surveillance data is useful for risk communication to health care professionals, the media and the general public. We reviewed national influenza surveillance websites from around the world to describe the main features of surveillance data dissemination.

Methods

We searched for national influenza surveillance websites for every country and reviewed the resulting sites where available during the period from November 2008 through February 2009. Literature about influenza surveillance was searched at MEDLINE for relevant hyperlinks to related websites. Non-English websites were translated into English using human translators or Google language tools.

Results

A total of 70 national influenza surveillance websites were identified. The percentage of developing countries with surveillance websites was lower than that of developed countries (22% versus 57% respectively). Most of the websites (74%) were in English or provided an English version. The most common surveillance methods included influenza-like illness consultation rates in primary care settings (89%) and laboratory surveillance (44%). Most websites (70%) provided data within a static report format and 66% of the websites provided data with at least weekly resolution.

Conclusion

Appropriate dissemination of surveillance data is important to maximize the utility of collected data. There may be room for improvement in the style and content of the dissemination of influenza data to health care professionals and the general public.