Are school absences correlated with influenza surveillance data in England? Results from decipher my data - A research project conducted through scientific engagement with schools

Decipher my Data project and schools

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6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background School aged children are a key link in the transmission of influenza. Most cases have little or no interaction with health services and are therefore missed by the majority of existing surveillance systems. As part of a public engagement with science project, this study aimed to establish a web-based system for the collection of routine school absence data and determine if school absence prevalence was correlated with established surveillance measures for circulating influenza. Methods We collected data for two influenza seasons (2011/12 and 2012/13). The primary outcome was daily school absence prevalence (weighted to make it nationally representative) for children aged 11 to 16. School absence prevalence was triangulated graphically and through univariable linear regression to Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) influenza like illness (ILI) episode incidence rate, national microbiological surveillance data on the proportion of samples positive for influenza (A+B) and with Rhinovirus, RSV and laboratory confirmed cases of Norovirus. Results 27 schools submitted data over two respiratory seasons. During the first season, levels of influenza measured by school absence prevalence and established surveillance were low. In the 2012/13 season, a peak of school absence prevalence occurred in week 51, and week 1 in RCGP ILI surveillance data. Linear regression showed a strong association between the school absence prevalence and RCGP ILI (All ages, and 5-14 year olds), laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A & B, and weak evidence for a linear association with Rhinovirus and Norovirus. Interpretation This study provides initial evidence for using routine school illness absence prevalence as a novel tool for influenza surveillance. The network of web-based data collection platforms we established through active engagement provides an innovative model of conducting scientific research and could be used for a wide range of infectious disease studies in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0146964
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Aldridge et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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