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Use of a large general practice syndromic surveillance system to monitor the progress of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic 2009 in the UK

  • S. E. HARCOURT (a1), G. E. SMITH (a1), A. J. ELLIOT (a1), R. PEBODY (a2), A. CHARLETT (a3), S. IBBOTSON (a1), M. REGAN (a4) and J. HIPPISLEY-COX (a5)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 08 April 2011

The Health Protection Agency/QSurveillance national surveillance system utilizes QSurveillance® a recently developed general practitioner database covering over 23 million people in the UK. We describe the spread of the first wave of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic 2009 using data on consultations for influenza-like illness (ILI), respiratory illness and prescribing for influenza from 3400 contributing general practices. Daily data, provided from 27 April 2009 to 28 January 2010, were used to give a timely overview for those managing the pandemic nationally and locally. The first wave particularly affected London and the West Midlands with a peak in ILI in week 30. Children aged between 1 and 15 years had consistently high consultation rates for ILI. Daily ILI rates were used for modelling national weekly case estimates. The system enabled the ‘real-time’ monitoring of the pandemic to a small geographical area, linking morbidity and prescribing for influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: S. E. Harcourt, Health Protection Scientist, Real Time Syndromic Surveillance Team, Health Protection Agency West Midlands, 6th Floor, 5 St Philip's Place, Birmingham, UK, B3 2PW. (Email:
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1.LC Jennings , Stockpiling prepandemic influenza vaccines: a new cornerstone of pandemic preparedness plans. Lancet Infectious Diseases 2008; 8: 650658.

3.DL Cooper , Can syndromic thresholds provide early warning of national influenza outbreaks? Journal of Public Health. 2009; 31: 1725.

10.T Benson . Why general practitioners use computers and hospital doctors do not – Part 2: scalability. British Medical Journal 2002; 325: 10901093.

15.E Miller , Incidence of 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 infection in England: a cross sectional serological study. Lancet 2010; 375: 11001108.

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Epidemiology & Infection
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