Facts about influenza surveillance

Objectives for surveillance at EU level

The ECDC influenza programme has the following specific priority objectives:

  • a decrease in morbidity and mortality due to seasonal influenza, especially through increased national and individual use of immunisation, appropriate use of antivirals, and better use of personal health measures;
  • improved preparedness for a pandemic at regional (European), Member State and local level, drawing on guidance from WHO;
  • a robust scientific base for the mitigation of influenza in Europe, including a balanced and relevant research programme.

There are general objectives for surveillance of communicable diseases in the European Union. These general objectives apply to ECDC influenza surveillance.

In its Interim Global Epidemiological Surveillance Standards for Influenza (2012), WHO proposes: “The specific goal of influenza surveillance is to provide timely and high-quality data and viral isolates in order to perform the following set of functions:

  • Describe the seasonality of influenza;
  • Signal the start and end of the influenza season;
  • Identify and monitor groups at high risk of severe disease and mortality;
  • Establish baseline levels of activity for influenza and severe influenza-related disease with which to evaluate the impact and severity of each season and of future pandemic events;
  • Determine influenza burden to help decision-makers prioritize resources and plan public health interventions;
  • Identify locally circulating virus types and subtypes and their relationship to global and regional patterns;
  • Assist in developing an understanding of the relationship of virus strains to disease severity;
  • Monitor antiviral sensitivity;
  • Facilitate vaccine strain selection;
  • Provide candidate viruses for vaccine production;
  • Describe the antigenic character and genetic makeup of circulating viruses.”