Monitoring COVID-19 and influenza: the added value of a severe acute respiratory infection surveillance system in Portugal

Ana Rita Torres, Verónica Gómez, Irina Kislaya, Ana Paula Rodrigues, Margarida Fernandes Tavares, Ana Catarina Pereira, Débora Pereira, Rita Côrte-Real, Carlos Humberto Flores, Nuno Verdasca, Raquel Guiomar, Ausenda Machado

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Background. Severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) surveillance is recommended to assess the severity of respiratory infections disease. In 2021, the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge, in collaboration with two general hospitals, implemented a SARI sentinel surveillance system based on electronic health registries. We describe its application in the 2021/2022 season and compare the evolution of SARI cases with the COVID-19 and influenza activity in two regions of Portugal. Methods. The main outcome of interest was the weekly incidence of patients hospitalized due to SARI, reported within the surveillance system. SARI cases were defined as patients containing ICD-10 codes for influenza-like illness, cardiovascular diagnosis, respiratory diagnosis, and respiratory infection in their primary admission diagnosis. Independent variables included weekly COVID-19 and influenza incidence in the North and Lisbon and Tagus Valley regions. Pearson and cross-correlations between SARI cases, COVID-19 incidence and influenza incidence were estimated. Results. A high correlation between SARI cases or hospitalizations due to respiratory infection and COVID-19 incidence was obtained (ρ = 0.78 and ρ = 0.82, respectively). SARI cases detected the COVID-19 epidemic peak a week earlier. A weak correlation was observed between SARI and influenza cases (ρ = −0.20). However, if restricted to hospitalizations due to cardiovascular diagnosis, a moderate correlation was observed (ρ = 0.37). Moreover, hospitalizations due to cardiovascular diagnosis detected the increase of influenza epidemic activity a week earlier. Conclusion. In the 2021/2022 season, the Portuguese SARI sentinel surveillance system pilot was able to early detect the COVID-19 epidemic peak and the increase of influenza activity. Although cardiovascular manifestations associated with influenza infection are known, more seasons of surveillance are needed, to confirm the potential use of cardiovascular hospitalizations as an indicator of influenza activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6590011
JournalCanadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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