The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on global influenza surveillance: Insights from 18 National Influenza Centers based on a survey conducted between November 2021 and March 2022

The NIC Collaborators

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Abstract

Background: National Influenza Centers (NICs) have played a crucial role in the surveillance of SARS-CoV-2. The FluCov project, covering 22 countries, was initiated to monitor the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on influenza activity. Methods: This project consisted of an epidemiological bulletin and NIC survey. The survey, designed to assess the impact of the pandemic on the influenza surveillance system, was shared with 36 NICs located across 22 countries. NICs were invited to reply between November 2021 and March 2022. Results: We received 18 responses from NICs in 14 countries. Most NICs (76%) indicated that the number of samples tested for influenza decreased. Yet, many NICs (60%) were able to increase their laboratory testing capacity and the “robustness” (e.g., number of sentinel sites) (59%) of their surveillance systems. In addition, sample sources (e.g., hospital or outpatient setting) shifted. All NICs reported a higher burden of work following the onset of the pandemic, with some NICs hiring additional staff or partial outsourcing to other institutes or departments. Many NICs anticipate the future integration of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance into the existing respiratory surveillance system. Discussion: The survey shows the profound impact of SARS-CoV-2 on national influenza surveillance in the first 27 months of the pandemic. Surveillance activities were temporarily disrupted, whilst priority was given to SARS-CoV-2. However, most NICs have shown rapid adaptive capacity underlining the importance of strong national influenza surveillance systems. These developments have the potential to benefit global respiratory surveillance in the years to come; however, questions about sustainability remain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13140
JournalInfluenza and other Respiratory Viruses
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Foundation for Influenza Epidemiology
Marzia Facchini
Sanofi Pasteur/AstraZeneca
World Health Organization
Innovative Medicines Initiative

    Keywords

    • SARS-CoV-2
    • epidemics
    • influenza
    • public health
    • surveillance

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