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Euro Surveill. 2011 Jan 20;16(3). pii: 19772.

Two waves of pandemic influenza A(H1N1) 2009 in Wales--the possible impact of media coverage on consultation rates, April-December 2009.

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  • 1Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, Public Health Wales, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


In the United Kingdom, the influenza A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic had a distinct two-wave pattern of general practice consultations for influenza-like illness (ILI). We describe the epidemiology of the influenza pandemic in Wales between April and December 2009 using integrated data from a number of independent sources: GP surveillance, community virology surveillance, hospital admissions and deaths, and media enquiries monitoring. The first wave peaked in late July at 100 consultations per 100,000 general practice population and attracted intensive media coverage. The positivity rate for the A(H1N1)2009 influenza did not exceed 25% and only 44 hospitalisations and one death were recorded. By contrast, the second wave peaked in late October and although characterised by lower ILI consultation rates (65 consultations per 100,000 general practice population) and low profile media activity, was associated with much higher positivity rates for pandemic influenza A(H1N1)2009 (60%) and substantially more hospital admissions (n=379) and deaths (n=26). The large number of ILI-related consultations during the first wave in Wales probably reflected the intensive media activity rather than influenza virus circulating in the community. Data from community surveillance schemes may therefore have considerably overestimated the true incidence of influenza. This has implications for the future interpretation of ILI surveillance data and their use in policy making, and underlines the importance of using integrated epidemiological, virological and hospital surveillance data to monitor influenza activity.

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