Uncovering the burden of Influenza in children in Portugal, 2008–2018

Alberto Caldas Afonso, Catarina Gouveia, Gustavo Januário, Mafalda Carmo, Hugo Lopes, Hélène Bricout, Catarina Gomes, Filipe Froes

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Background: Despite their higher risk of developing severe disease, little is known about the burden of influenza in Portugal in children aged < 5 years old. This study aims to cover this gap by estimating the clinical and economic burden of severe influenza in children, in Portugal, during ten consecutive influenza seasons (2008/09-2017/18). Methods: We reviewed hospitalizations in children aged < 5 years old using anonymized administrative data covering all public hospitals discharges in mainland Portugal. The burden of hospitalization and in-hospital mortality directly coded as due to influenza was supplemented by the indirect burden calculated from excess hospitalization and mortality (influenza-associated), estimated for four groups of diagnoses (pneumonia or influenza, respiratory, respiratory or cardiovascular, and all-cause), through cyclic regression models integrating the incidence of influenza. Means were reported excluding the H1N1pdm09 pandemic (2009/10). Results: The mean annual number of hospitalizations coded as due to influenza was 189 (41.3 cases per 100,000 children aged < 5 years old). Hospitalization rates decreased with increasing age. Nine-in-ten children were previously healthy, but the presence of comorbidities increased with age. Children stayed, on average, 6.1 days at the hospital. Invasive mechanical ventilation was used in 2.4% of hospitalizations and non-invasive in 3.1%. Influenza-associated excess hospitalizations between 2008 and 2018 were estimated at 1,850 in pneumonia or influenza, 1,760 in respiratory, 1,787 in respiratory or cardiovascular, and 1,879 in all-cause models. A total of 95 influenza-associated excess deaths were estimated in all-cause, 14 in respiratory or cardiovascular, and 9 in respiratory models. Over ten years, influenza hospitalizations were estimated to have cost the National Health Service at least €2.9 million, of which 66.5% from healthy children. Conclusions: Influenza viruses led to a high number of hospitalizations in children. Most were previously healthy. Results should lead to a reflection on the adequate preventive measures to protect this age group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Early online dateDec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2024


  • Burden
  • Children
  • Excess
  • Healthy
  • Hospitalization
  • Influenza
  • Mortality
  • Portugal


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