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Google Flu Team

Thomas House (University of Warwick) A Brief History of Time(-series on Infectious Disease Incidence)

Real-time syndromic surveillance team (Public Health England)

Lydia Drumright (University of Cambridge) Use of hospital staff absences for influenza surveillance: difficulties and benefits of harnessing a novel source of big data for syndromic surveillance

We investigated the use of hospital staff ‘influenza-like absences’ (hospital staff-ILA), i.e. absence attributed to colds and influenza, from the human resources department of a large West London NHS Trust to improve capture of influenza dynamics and provide resilience for hospitals. Numbers and rates of hospital staff-ILA were compared to regional surveillance data on ILI primary-care presentations (15-64 years) and to counts of laboratory confirmed cases among hospitalised patients from April 2008 to April 2013 inclusive. Analyses were used to determine comparability of the ILI and hospital-ILA systems and how systems compared in early warning and estimating the burden of disease. There was consistency in illness measurements between ILA and ILI and both hospital-ILA and ILI showed similar timing of the seasonal component. Hospital-ILA appears to have the potential to improve syndromic surveillance of respiratory illness however, use of such data could be improved by expansion of analytic techniques and ‘gold standard’ measures.