Early spread of the 2009 infuenza A(H1N1) pandemic in the United Kingdom - use of local syndromic data, May-August 2009
Smith S., Smith GE., Olowokure B., Ibbotson S., Foord D., Maguire H., Pebody R., Charlett A., Hippisley-Cox J., Elliot AJ.
Following the confirmation of the first two cases of pandemic influenza on 27 April 2009 in the United Kingdom (UK), syndromic surveillance data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA)/QSurveillance and HPA/NHS Direct systems were used to monitor the possible spread of pandemic influenza at local level during the first phase of the outbreak. During the early weeks, syndromic indicators sensitive to influenza activity monitored through the two schemes remained low and the majority of cases were travel-related. The first evidence of community spread was seen in the West Midlands region following a school-based outbreak in central Birmingham. During the first phase several Primary Care Trusts had periods of exceptional influenza activity two to three weeks ahead of the rest of the region. Community transmission in London began slightly later than in the West Midlands but the rates of influenza-like illness recorded by general practitioners (GPs) were ultimately higher. Influenza activity in the West Midlands and London regions peaked a week before the remainder of the UK. Data from the HPA/NHS Direct and HPA/QSurveillance systems were mapped at local level and used alongside laboratory data and local intelligence to assist in the identification of hotspots, to direct limited public health resources and to monitor the progression of the outbreak. This work has demonstrated the utility of local syndromic surveillance data in the detection of increased transmission and in the epidemiological investigation of the pandemic and has prompted future spatio-temporal work.