Rapid risk assessment during the early weeks of the 2015-2016 influenza season in Ukraine

Sophie Newitt*, Alla Mironenko, Olha Holubka, Oleksandr Zaika, Olga Gubar, Katri Jalava, Caroline Brown, Iryna Demchyshyna, Tetiana Dykhanovska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Several eastern European countries reported a severe influenza season to the World Health Organization (WHO) during late 2015. A country-specific rapid risk assessment for Ukraine was conducted to assess the season's severity and inform public health action. Methods: The exposure and hazard were assessed using acute respiratory infection (ARI), severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), laboratory surveillance, virological and vaccine data from weeks 40/2015 to 7/2016 with comparison to 4 previous seasons to describe the influenza season start (5-week consecutive increase in ARI or SARI), predominant virus types, geographical spread and affected age groups. Results: The exposure was characterised by an earlier and steeper increase in SARI (week 1/2016) and ARI (week 2/2016) compared to the previous 4 seasons. Transmission was across Ukraine with an increase in ARI and SARI cases aged 30-64 years compared to 2014/15. Laboratory-confirmed deaths increased from 11 in 2014/2015 to 342 in 2015/2016; the majority were 30-64 years old and unvaccinated; and 63.5% had underlying conditions. Total population vaccination coverage was 0.3%. The hazard assessment found influenza virus A(H1N1)pdm09 accounted for >95% of viruses detected. Ukrainian virus strains (n = 62) were antigenically similar to vaccine strains and susceptible to neuraminidase inhibitors. Conclusions: The first weeks of the 2015/16 influenza season were more severe than previous seasons, with an earlier and steeper increase in severe cases and deaths, particularly in younger adults. Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 was the predominant strain and was closely related to the seasonal vaccine strain with no evidence of resistance to antiviral drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalInfluenza and other Respiratory Viruses
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of their institutes. The authors would like to acknowledge the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Francis Crick Institute, London, United Kingdom, and WHO Collaborating Centre for the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Control of Influenza, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, United States of America, for their collaboration on influenza surveillance and detailed antigenic and genetic analysis of Ukrainian influenza viruses. We would also like to thank colleagues at the WHO Country Office in Ukraine and the Influenza and other Respiratory Pathogens Department at the WHO Regional Office for Europe for supporting this risk assessment, and the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and Public Health England for facilitating this deployment. Katri Jalava thanks Environmental Health, City of Tampere for the opportunity of deployment to Ukraine and National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland, for facilitating the mission.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • influenza A(H1N1)pdm09
  • risk assessment
  • seasonal influenza
  • Ukraine


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