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Influenza surveillance

Objectives for influenza surveillance at EU level

The general objectives for strengthening the surveillance of communicable diseases in the European Union are:

Surveillance at the European level shall add value to Member States by directly strengthening and supporting the national surveillance systems and by coordinating the standardization of EU-wide surveillance activities to ensure better availability of more comparable data between countries.  It shall strive to reduce the complexity of surveillance systems across Europe and enhance insight into communicable disease epidemiology in Europe. 

To be able to achieve these broad goals, the following general objectives have been identified for strengthening surveillance in the EU:

  • Define surveillance outputs that will provide added value by informing public health decisions and actions at the EU and/or Member State level;
  • Collect and disseminate validated and comparable information on communicable diseases;
  • Improve and update methodologies and quality assurance;
  • Strengthen the laboratory surveillance in EU Member States;
  • Consolidate outbreak detection and monitoring in EU Member States and at the EU level;
  • Strengthen national capacities for surveillance and contributing to the evaluation of prevention and control programmes;
  • Ensure patient confidentiality and legal foundation for data collection in individual member states;
  • Promote the wider use of surveillance data for a maximum of public health benefit, including research projects at a European level.

The general influenza surveillance objective:

The overall ECDC priority objectives are improving use of influenza vaccination in Member States and strengthening pandemic preparedness. These objectives do not yet cover capacity strengthening and do not encompass surveillance for human avian influenza cases or surveillance in a pandemic.

Specific influenza surveillance objectives

Objective 1

  • Describe the annual occurrence of influenza, among whom (age-groups)
  • Announce the start of the flu season
  • Monitor the intensity and recent trends through the season
  • Predict where in the EU transmission in the season is likely to occur (based on previous patterns of spread) so that preparations can be made
  • Determine which groups are most affected this season (alerting the public and clinicians)
  • Trigger operational plans (e.g. use of antivirals and personal protective measures)


Objective 2

  • Determining the type of influenza viruses that are circulating (virological surveillance)
  • Determine the next season’s choice for vaccine composition (via WHO)
  • Estimate the likelihood of clinical antiviral resistance so that treatment can be optimised
  • Initial investigation of whether the current seasonal vaccine is likely to work


Objective 3

  • Determining the disease resulting from influenza
  • Estimating and updating the current burden of disease estimates
  • Determine the risk groups and assess their suitability for immunisation
  • Contribute data to clarifying the clinical picture including response to treatment
  • Contribute data to estimating the predictive value of syndromes for influenza infection
  • Use surveillance data to inform clinicians of any unusual presentations so they can recognise them better and earlier
  • Use surveillance data to contribute to the detection of clinical viral resistance so that treatment can be optimized


Objective 4

  • Determining the effectiveness of immunisation against seasonal influenza
  • Use surveillance data to contribute to the assessment of the next seasons choice for vaccine composition
  • Use surveillance data to contribute to better inform the public and clinicians in campaigns on vaccination






© European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) 2005 - 2015