Australian influenza report 2009 - 15 to 21 August 2009 (#15/09)

The Australian Influenza Report is compiled from a number of data sources, including laboratory-confirmed notifications to NNDSS, sentinel influenza-like illness reporting from general practitioners and emergency departments, workplace absenteeism, and laboratory testing. It is produced weekly from May to October. A more in-depth end of season report is also published in Communicable Diseases Intelligence.

Page last updated: 17 September 2009

Report No. 15
Week ending 21 August 2009

A print friendly version of this report is available as a PDF (202 KB)

Latest influenza reports are available in PDF format from the Health Emergency website

Disclaimer
This report aims to increase awareness of seasonal influenza in Australia by providing an analysis of the various surveillance data sources throughout Australia. While every care has been taken in preparing this report, the Commonwealth does not accept liability for any injury or loss or damage arising from the use of, or reliance upon, the content of the report. Please note, this report is based on data available as at 12 June 2009. Delays in the reporting of data may cause data to change retrospectively. For further details about information contained in this report please contact the Influenza team through flu@health.gov.au



Key Indicators

The counting of every case of pandemic influenza is no longer feasible in the PROTECT phase. Influenza activity and severity in community is instead monitored by the surveillance systems listed below.

Is the situation changing?
Indicated by: laboratory confirmed cases reported to NetEpi/NNDSS; GP Sentinel ILI Surveillance; and ED presentations of ILI at sentinel hospitals (NSW and WA).
Laboratory data are used to determine the proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 circulating in the community.
How severe is the disease, and is severity changing?
Indicated by: number of hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths from sentinel hospital surveillance; emergence of more severe clinical picture in hospitalised cases and ICU admissions.
Is the virus changing?
Indicated by: emergence of drug resistance or gene drift/shift from laboratory surveillance.
What is ahead?
Forward projections of cases, morbidity and mortality.

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Key Points

Is the situation changing?


  • As of 21 August 2009 there were 32,787 confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in Australia. The number of cases reported represents a small proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases which have occurred in the community.
      • Overall, current national influenza activity appears to be decreasing. Most jurisdictions have reported that pandemic (H1N1) 2009 activity has peaked or plateaued. Activity varies across jurisdictions.
      • ILI presentations to General Practitioners have increased in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. GP presentations in all other jurisdictions are decreasing. At a national level they are below 2007 rates.
      • Trends in ILI presentations to emergency departments varied this reporting period, with WA and NSW reporting a decrease, and SA and reporting a slight increase.
      • Absenteeism rates have decreased in the last week and are below levels seen at the same time in 2007.
  • Type A influenza is the predominant seasonal influenza type reported by all jurisdictions. The pandemic strain appears to be replacing the current seasonal H1N1 virus. The proportion of influenza positive tests that were pandemic (H1N1) 2009 remained stable and varied between jurisdictional reporting systems from 68% (NSW NIC) to 100% (VIC) for this reporting period, with an average proportion of 87%. Of the seasonal influenza A notifications, A/H3N2 is the predominant subtype reported by most jurisdictions.
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    How severe is the disease?

  • The number of people with pandemic (H1N1) 2009 requiring hospitalisation appears to be stabilising. As of 21 August there were 456 people in hospital and 98 in ICU. In total, 4,082 people have been hospitalised. The highest hospitalisation rate occurred in young children aged less than 5 years of age (34.6 per 100,000 population).
  • Due to the presence of underlying chronic disease, some of which is undiagnosed, and their higher level of social disadvantage, Indigenous Australians are vulnerable to complications from the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus. Indigenous Australians are approximately 5 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised for pandemic (H1N1) 2009. In total, 555 (13.6%) hospitalisations have been Indigenous Australians.
  • Eight percent of hospitalised cases have been reported as pregnant, reinforcing the fact that pregnancy, particularly in the second and third trimesters, is a risk factor for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection. For the month of July, pregnant women accounted for 32% of all hospitalised women who were confirmed cases aged between 25 to 29 years.
  • Since reporting began, the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) has reported a total of 98 notifications of children hospitalised with severe complications of influenza. 61% had no underlying medical conditions.
  • The percentage of hospitalised cases who have been admitted to an ICU since the beginning of the outbreak is available for two States: 14.8% in New South Wales and 13.3% in Queensland.
  • The number of deaths associated with pandemic (H1N1) 2009 continues to increase. As of 21 August, 131 people have died. Of these deaths, four were pregnant women and 18 (13.7%) were Indigenous.
  • The median age of confirmed cases that died is 54 years (range 3-86 years of age), compared to the median age for deaths from seasonal flu from 2001 to 2006 which is 83 years.
  • Reports from the Australian jurisdictions indicate that most of the deaths had underlying medical conditions including cancer, diabetes mellitus and morbid obesity.
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    Is the virus changing?

  • To date in Australia, all of the 159 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 viral isolates tested have been sensitive to the neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir and zanamivir, and none of the 79 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 clinical specimens tested positive for the H275Y mutation which confers resistance to oseltamivir.
  • A total of 14 cases of oseltamivir resistance pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus have been reported worldwide up to 21 August. The WHO has received formal notification of 12 cases of oseltamivir resistant pandemic (H1N1) 2009 viruses to date.

    What is ahead?

    With a 20% clinical attack rate and no intervention; it has been estimated that by the end of winter 1 in 5 Australian (4.3 million) could become infected with the pandemic virus, leading to 80,000 hospitalisations and 6,000 deaths. Currently the number of hospitalisations and deaths are tracking below these estimations.
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    1. Current influenza activity in Australia – Is the situation changing?

    Notifications of confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and seasonal influenza

    As of 21 August 2009 there were 32,787 confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in Australia, including 131 deaths. The number of new notifications of laboratory confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 have decreased nationally over the past few weeks. The number of cases reported represents only a small proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 circulating in the community.

    The national epidemic curve shows the jurisdictional distribution of confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 over time in Australia (Figure 1). The epidemic curve shows several peaks, however the pattern is a surveillance artefact due to a change in testing policy. The majority of earlier confirmed cases occurred in Victoria, where case reporting peaked in late May before declining rapidly in early June. This change was due to targeted laboratory testing implemented on 3 June 2009 as part of the modified SUSTAIN phase.

    Figure 1. Laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in Australia, to 21 August 2009, by jurisdiction

    Laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in Australia, to 21 August 2009 by jurisdiction

    Source: NetEPI database



    As Figure 2 shows, influenza activity in 2009 started earlier than in 2008 and there was a rapid increase in the number of confirmed influenza cases (both seasonal and pandemic (H1N1) 2009) from week 21 (starting 16 May 2009). The high number of seasonal influenza seen during May and June are most likely due to the increase in testing for pandemic (H1N1) 2009. Overall, numbers of laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza have been decreasing in the past few weeks.
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    Laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza for this reporting week are at 2.7 times the 5 year weekly mean and 12.8 times the 5 year, year to date mean.

    Figure 2. Influenza activity in Australia, by reporting week, years 2007, 2008 and 2009*

    Influenza activity in Australia, by reporting week, years 2007, 2008 and 2009

    * Data on pandemic (H1N1) 2001 cases is extracted from NetEPI; data on seasonal influenza is extracted from the NNDSS.
    Sources: NNDSS and NetEPI databases



    On 17 June 2009, Australia commenced the transition to a new response phase called PROTECT, in which laboratory testing is directed towards people with moderate or severe illness; those more vulnerable to severe illness; and those in institutional settings. This means that the number of confirmed cases will not reflect how many people in the community have acquired pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection.
    As the counting of every case is no longer feasible in the PROTECT phase. Influenza activity, including Influenza Like Illness (ILI) activity in the community is instead monitored by surveillance systems including:
      • GP Sentinel ILI surveillance;
      • Emergency Department presentations of ILI at sentinel hospitals (NSW and WA); and
      • Absenteeism rates.
    Laboratory data are used to determine the proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 circulating in the community.
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    Influenza Like Illness activity in Australia

    Sentinel General Practice

    ILI presentations to General Practitioners have decreased and are lower than 2007 rates nationally. Decreases have been seen in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory this reporting period.

    Combined data available from the Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPREN), the Northern Territory GP surveillance system and VIDRL, up until 16 August 2009, show that nationally, influenza like Illness (ILI) consultation rates have decreased this reporting period and are below levels seen in 2007 (Figure 3). In the last week, the presentation rate to sentinel GPs in Australia was approximately 28 cases per 1,000 patients seen.

    Figure 3. Rate of ILI reported from GP ILI surveillance systems from 2007 to 16 August 2009 by week*

    Rate of ILI reported from GP ILI surveillance systems from 2007 to 16 August 2009 by week

    * Delays in the reporting of data may cause data to change retrospectively. As data from the NT and the VIDRL surveillance systems are combined with ASPREN data, rates may not be directly comparable across 2007, 2008 and 2009.
    SOURCE: ASPREN, NT, VIDRL


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    Further analysis of the ILI data showed levels in Victoria (both from ASPREN and VIDRL), NSW, Tasmania, WA and the ACT dropped in this period. Rates of ILI have increased in QLD, SA and the NT (Figure 4).

    Care should be taken when interpreting Figure 4 graphs due to lags in reporting in some instances and small numbers being reported from jurisdictions. The last data point may be modified in future reports.

    Figure 4. Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week

    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, australian capital territory
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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, new south wales

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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, queensland

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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, south australia

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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, tasmania

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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, western australia

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    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, victoria

    SOURCE: ASPREN (VIC) & VIDRL



    Rate of ILI reported from ASPREN, VIDRL and NT by State from January 2009 to 16 August 2009 by week, northern territory

    SOURCE: NT Surveillance


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    Emergency departments

    Trends in ILI presentations to EDs varied this reporting period, with WA (Figure 5) and NSW (Figure 6) reporting a decrease and SA reporting a slight increase.

    The number of ILI presentations reported in Western Australian EDs has dropped in the week ending 16 August 2009 with levels higher than at the same time in 2007 and 2008 (Figure 5). The proportion of ILI presentations admitted to hospital decreased from 4.4% to 3.9%.

    Figure 5. Number of Emergency Department presentations due to ILI in Western Australia from 1 January 2007 to 16 August 2009 by week

    Number of Emergency Department presentations due to ILI in Western Australia from 1 January 2007 to 16 August 2009 by week

    In early July 2007 (week 26), several deaths associated with influenza infection were reported in children from Western Australia. The public response to these deaths could account for the sudden increase in ILI presentations to Perth EDs in 2007.
    SOURCE: WA ‘Virus Watch’ Report

    In the week ending 7 August 2009, ILI presentations to New South Wales EDs decreased (rate14 per 1,000 presentations) (Figure 6). Presentations were mainly for mild illnesses and 8% of presentations with ILI were admitted.

    Figure 6. Rate of ILI diagnosed in people presenting to selected Emergency Departments, NSW 1 January 2005 to 7 August 2009 by month*


    Rate of ILI diagnosed in people presenting to selected Emergency Departments, NSW 1 January 2005 to 7 August 2009 by month


    * Emergency department data are preliminary and may be updated in later weeks.
    SOURCE: NSW HEALTH ‘NSW Influenza Surveillance Report’



    ILI presentations to South Australian EDs increased slightly to 163 presentations this reporting period compared with 151 presentations in the previous week. The number of admissions decreased from 12 to 7. 1
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    Absenteeism

    Absenteeism rates have dropped in the last week and are below levels seen in 2007 (Figure 7).

    Figure 7. Rates of absenteeism of greater than 3 days absent, National employer, 1 January 2007 to 12 August 2009, by week


    Rates of absenteeism of greater than 3 days absent, National employer, 1 January 2007 to 12 August 2009, by week

    SOURCE: Absenteeism data


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    Laboratory surveillance

    How much ILI and influenza is due to pandemic (H1N1) 2009?

    As shown in Table 1 below, the proportion of respiratory tests positive for influenza varied between jurisdictional reporting laboratories and ranged from 14% to 29% for this reporting period.

    Of those tests that were positive for Influenza A, the proportion of tests that were pandemic (H1N1) 2009 remained stable in most jurisdictions, and varied between jurisdictions from 68% (NSW NIC) to 100% (VIC).

    The proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to seasonal influenza varies across jurisdictions. This proportion is used as an indicator to help determine if a person has influenza, how likely it is to be pandemic (H1N1) 2009. The proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to seasonal influenza as reported by the jurisdictions is shown in Table 1. The proportion of confirmed influenza in Australia which was pandemic (H1N1) 2009 across all reporting systems increased to 87%.

    Over the last two weeks, for the days on which surveillance testing was conducted, ASPREN GPs reported 90 people presenting with ILI. Of these, 49% (44/90) were tested for influenza. Twenty-three percent (10/44) of these cases were influenza positive; 90% (9/10) were pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and 10% (1/10) were influenza A unspecified.

    Table 1. Laboratory tests that tested positive for influenza A and pandemic (H1N1) 2009

     

    ASPREN – national VIDRL Sentinel GP # VIC NIC WA NIC NT (reported by WA NIC) NSW NIC
    Latest report            
    Number of specimens tested
    44
    34
    (at 16/8)
    134
    (at 14/8)
    n/a
    n/a
    282
    (at 21/8)
    % tested which were Influenza A
    23%
    (10)
    29%
    (10)
    28%
    (37)
    n=192
    (at 21/8)
    n=10
    (at 21/8)
    14%
    (38)
    % tested which were pandemic (H1N1) 2009
    90%
    (9)
    100%
    (10)
    100%
    (37)
    88%
    (168)
    70%
    (7)
    68%
    (26)
    Previous report
    Number of specimens tested
    76
    45
    (at 9/8)
    n/a
    476
    (at 14/8)
    32
    (at 14/8)
    46
    (at 14/8)
    % tested which were Influenza A
    37%
    42%
    (19)
    n/a
    100%
    (476)
    100%
    (32)
    100%
    (46)
    % tested which were pandemic (H1N1) 2009
    93%
    89%
    (17)
    n/a
    94%
    (448)
    69%
    (22)
    46%
    (21)


    *ASPREN tests are collected every Tuesday. Results are reported for a rolling fortnight as data changes retrospectively.
    #VIDRL Influenza Report available from: http://www.vidrl.org.au/surveillance/flu%20reports/flurpt09/flu09.html



    The proportion of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 compared with seasonal influenza varies across different countries in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Argentina reported that 93% of the respiratory viruses circulating in those aged over 5 years is due to pandemic (H1N1) 2009, 2 while Canada reported that pandemic (H1N1) 2009 represents 97% of all influenzas, 3 and the US is reporting that it represents 98% of the total circulating influenza viruses. 4 In New Zealand, pandemic (H1N1) 2009 represents 81% of influenza viruses reported from sentinel surveillance and 58% of influenza viruses reported in non-sentinel surveillance. 5
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    2. How severe is the disease, and is severity changing?

    Overview of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 severity

    Table 2 provides a summary of measures that indicate the severity of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 since the beginning of the outbreak and up to 21 August. Of particular note is the increasing median age as the severity of the disease progresses: 21 years for all confirmed cases; 32 years for hospitalised cases; 43 years for ICU cases; and 54 years for cases who have died.

    Table 2. Summary of severity indicators of pandemic (H1N1) in Australia

     

    Confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases Hospitalised cases ICU cases Deaths
    Total number
    32787
    4082 (12%)
    96 (daily average)
    131
    % Females
    51%
    50% (1247/2486)
    51% (135/263)
    37%
    Median age (years)
    21
    32
    43
    54
    Indigenous status
    15% (1327/8688)
    14% (555/4082)
    20% (47/249)
    14% (18/131)
    Underlying medical conditions*
    n/a
    61%
    58%
    n/a
    % Pregnant
    n/a
    8.3% (214/2562)
    6% (12/214)
    3% (4/131)

    #Data are extracted from a number of sources depending on the availability of information. Where complete data are not available, information on the Figures used in the analysis have been provided in parentheses.
    *Information on underlying medical conditions is currently available for only one jurisdiction


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    Table 3. Summary of hospitalisations and deaths for pandemic (H1N1) in Australia, by States and Territories

      ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA AUS
    Total pandemic (H1N1) 2009 hospitalisations
    43
    1124
    261
    1019
    414
    96
    468
    657
    4082
    Percentage of national pandemic (H1N1) 2009 hospitalisations
    1.1%
    27.5%
    6.4%
    25.0%
    10.1%
    2.4%
    11.5%
    16.1%
    100%
    Crude rate per 100,000
    12.5
    16.1
    118.7
    23.8
    25.8
    19.3
    8.8
    3.0
    19.1
    Total pandemic (H1N1) 2009 deaths
    2
    36
    5
    28
    14
    6
    24
    16
    131
    Percentage of national pandemic (H1N1) 2009 deaths
    1.5%
    27.5%
    3.8%
    21.4%
    10.7%
    4.6%
    18.3%
    12.2%
    100%
    Crude rate per 100,000
    0.6
    0.5
    2.3
    0.7
    0.9
    1.2
    0.5
    0.7
    0.6

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    Pandemic morbidity (hospitalisations)

    Hospitalisations of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 confirmed cases

    As of 21 August 2009, jurisdictions have reported that 4,082 confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 have been hospitalised (this Figure includes people who are hospitalised for associated conditions). The number of cases per day requiring hospitalisation has been increasing since mid June but appear to have stabilised. There have been 558 additional new cases hospitaliseda over the last week (Figure 8).

    a. The numbers hospitalised should be treated with caution as there may be case ascertainment bias in the reporting of confirmed cases being hospitalised. All paediatric cases admitted to hospital are being tested for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 while not all hospitalised adults might be tested. There may be a significant underestimation of the numbers of adults hospitalised from pandemic (H1N1) 2009 due to limited testing.



    Indigenous Australians are approximately 5 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised for pandemic (H1N1) 2009. The states and territories have reported that 555 (13.6%) of all 4,082 cases hospitalised since the beginning of the outbreak were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

    For comparative purposes, for the period 2000-01 to 2006-07, an average of 1,925 people with influenza are admitted to hospital each year. For all influenzasb and pneumonias, c for the same period, an average of 73,271 people were admitted to hospital. 6

    b. ICD10-AM codes J10-J11
    c. ICD10-AM codes J12-J18


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    Figure 8. Hospitalisations of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, 15 June 2009 to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Hospitalisations of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, 15 June 2009 to 21 August 2009, Australia

    * The jurisdictions report directly to the National Incident Room, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, on hospitalisations and numbers admitted to ICUs.
    Source: Jurisdictions


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    Age and sex distribution of hospitalised confirmed cases

    Limited further information is available for 2,562 (63%) of the 4,082 confirmed cases hospitalised since the beginning of the outbreak. Of these cases, the overall hospitalisation rate is 12.0 per 100,000 population with the highest rates in males aged less than 5 years of age (34.6 per 100,000 population). The median age of hospitalised cases is 32 years (range 0-98). Figure 9 illustrates that the age distribution of hospitalised cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 is different to previous influenza seasons. In comparison with the 2004-2007 influenza seasons, young children aged less than 5 years of age continue to be hospitalised at a higher rate than other age groups (males in particular) but for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 there is a peak in the 50 to 60 years age group and a marked decrease in those aged more than 75 years.

    Figure 9. Age specific rates of hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to 21 August 2009, compared with average annual age specific rates of hospitalisations from seasonal influenza 2004-05 to 2006-07,* Australia

    Age specific rates of hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to 21 August 2009, compared with average annual age specific rates of hospitalisations from seasonal influenza 2004-05 to 2006-07

    *The rates for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 are from 15 June to 21 August 2009 whereas the rates for seasonal influenza are averaged annual rates (i.e. for a full influenza season).
    Source: NETEPI database



    Information on length of stay is available for 55% (1,142) of hospitalised cases. The median length of stay in hospital is 3 days (range 1-94 days). Approximately 17% of all hospitalised patients stayed in hospital for more that 7 days (Figure 10). A breakdown by age group shows that children aged less than 5 years, although more likely to be hospitalised, tend to be hospitalised for shorter periods than older children and adults. Only 11% of children aged less than 5 years remain in hospital for longer than 7 days, this compares with 21% for those in the age group 30 years and over.

    Figure 10. Hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, by length of hospital stay and age group, to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, by length of hospital stay and age group, to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Source: NETEPI database


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    Pregnancy as a risk factor for pandemic (H1N1) 2009

    About 8% (214) of the 2,562 hospitalised confirmed cases for whom further information was known were pregnant women. For the month of July, pregnant women accounted for 32% of all hospitalised women who were confirmed cases aged between 25 to 29 years. Information on gestation is available for 169 of the 214 cases. Approximately 14% (24) were in their 1st trimester (weeks 1-12); 32% (54) were in their 2nd trimester (weeks 13-26); and 54% (91) were in their 3rd trimester (weeks 27-41) (Figure 11). Twelve pregnant women were admitted to ICU: 3 were in their 2nd trimester and 6 were in the 3rd trimester (information on gestation was unknown for 3 cases). Pregnant women stayed an average of 6 days in hospital (range 1-42 days). Four pregnant women are known to have died.

    Figure 11. Hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in pregnant women by weeks of gestation, to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Hospitalised confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in pregnant women by weeks of gestation, to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Source: NETEPI database


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    Paediatric hospital admissions

    Since reporting began in 2009, 98 children have been reported as hospitalised with complications from influenza by the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU). Admission data has been provided in 65 cases (Figure 12).

    Of the 69 cases, for which data are available, the average age of children admitted to hospital is four years, with an age range from one month to 16 years. Complications were mostly for pneumonia and encephalitis. Twenty-four of the 62 (39%) cases for which data is available had underlying conditions.

    Figure 12. Number of paediatric hospital admissions APSU, 11 March 2009 to 10 August 2009, by week of admission

    Number of paediatric hospital admissions APSU, 11 March 2009 to 10 August 2009, by week of admission

    SOURCE: APSU


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    Confirmed cases requiring intensive care

    In Week 34 (week ending 21 August 2009), an average of 96 hospitalised cases required intensive care on any given day, d compared to 11 in the previous reporting period. The median age of cases in ICU is 43 years (range 0-84). For those cases for which Indigenous status was known (249), 20% (47) cases have been reported as Indigenous.

    Information on the percentage of hospitalised cases admitted to an ICU since the beginning of the pandemic is available for two States. In New South Wales the percentage of hospitalised cases admitted to an ICU is 14.8% and for Queensland the percentage is 13.3%.

    d. This does not represent the number of new cases requiring admittance to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but is a repeated measure of the prevalence of confirmed cases in an ICU on a particular day.


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    Pandemic Mortality

    Deaths associated with pandemic (H1N1) 2009

    There were 131 deaths associated with the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus in Australia between 19 June 2009 and 21 August 2009. e Of these 131 deaths, 36 occurred in New South Wales, 28 in Queensland, 24 in Victoria, 16 in Western Australia, 14 in South Australia, 6 in Tasmania, 5 in the Northern Territory and 2 in the Australian Capital Territory.

    e. For the most recent figures on hospitalisations and deaths please access the latest Situation Report at http://www.healthemergency.gov.au/internet/healthemergency/publishing.nsf/Content/updates



    Of the 131 deaths, 18 (13.7%) were Indigenous. f Reports from the jurisdictions in Australia indicate that most of the cases had underlying medical conditions including cancer, diabetes mellitus and morbid obesity. The Pan-American Health Organization has reported that between 53% and 59% of confirmed cases who have died in Argentina, Chile and Mexico, have had underlying conditions. 7

    f. It is estimated that 2.4% of the total Australian population are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.



    Further information was available on 78 of the 131 deaths in Australia. Sixty three percent (48) of deaths were in males. The median age of confirmed cases that died was 54 years (range 3-86 years). This compares with deaths from seasonal influenza where the median age, for the period 2001-2006, was 83 years. The highest proportion of deaths (18%) have occurred in the 55-59 year age group (14). Most deaths (80%) have occurred in those aged between 35 to 79 years (Figure 13). Noting the apparent biases in these data, the pattern of deaths across age groups is very different to the age distribution of hospitalisations and confirmed cases.

    g. Detailed data on the 78 deaths was only available from the following jurisdictions: NSW, NT, TAS, VIC & WA.



    Figure 13. Numbers of deaths (NSW, NT, TAS, VIC & WA only) among confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, by age group and sex, compared with total laboratory confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 notifications by age group, to 21 August 2009, Australia

    Numbers of deaths (NSW, NT, TAS, VIC & WA only) among confirmed cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, by age group and sex, compared with total laboratory confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 notifications by age group, to 21 August 2009

    Source: NETEPI database


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    Deaths associated with influenza and pneumonia

    There are difficulties estimating the number of deaths due to influenza in Australia. Deaths coded as being due to laboratory confirmed influenza are known to underestimate the true number. Influenza may not be listed on the death certificate if it wasn’t recognised as the underlying cause. Coding of pneumonia and influenza provides an additional measure, although this will overestimate the number of deaths as it will include other causes of pneumonia.

    The median number of annual deaths in Australia for the years 2001 to 2006 from influenza and pneumonia is 3,089 and for laboratory diagnosed influenza is 40. In 2007 (the latest year for which data has been released) there were 2,623 deaths with influenza and pneumonia as the underlying cause of death. In 2007, influenza and pneumonia was the 13th leading cause of death in Australia (Source: ABS, Causes of Death 2007). Mortality figures are likely to be an underestimate due to inherent difficulties in assigning causes of death and therefore appropriate ICD codes. ABS mortality data are released two years in arrears.

    Although mortality data from all causes are generally not available for the current year, some information on influenza and pneumonia deaths are reported by individual jurisdictions from their Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers. In Western Australia, pneumonia and influenza deaths accounted for approximately 20% of all deaths in the week ending 16 August 2009, which is similar to levels seen at the same time in 2007 and 2008 (Figure 14).

    Figure 14: Percentage of all deaths classified as influenza and pneumonia, WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1 January 2008 to 16 August 2009


    SOURCE: WA ‘Virus Watch’ Report



    In NSW, death certificate data as of 31 July 2009 show that there were 68 influenza or pneumonia deaths per 1,000 deaths in NSW, which was below the expected seasonal threshold for this time of year of 154 per 1,000 (Figure 15).

    Figure 15: Rates of deaths classified as influenza and pneumonia, NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1 January 2004 to 31 July 2009


    Rates of deaths classified as influenza and pneumonia, NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1 January 2004 to 31 July 2009

    SOURCE: NSW Health ‘Weekly Influenza Report’


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    3. Is the virus changing?

    Laboratory Confirmed Influenza

    It is not possible to determine accurately the number of notifications due to seasonal influenza. Increasingly, not all influenza viruses are subtyped and the large proportion of influenza A (13,296 notifications) reported to NNDSS could be either pandemic (H1N1) 2009 or seasonal influenza. Laboratory reports in recent weeks estimate that 87% of all influenza positive tests are due to pandemic (H1N1) 2009.

    From 1 January to 21 August 2009, type A is the predominant seasonal influenza type reported by all jurisdictions. Of the type A notifications for which there is subtyping information in NNDSS, the ratio of seasonal H1N1 to H3N2 is 1:2.

    Antigenic characteristics

    WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference & Research on Influenza (WHO CC)

    In 2009 up to 23 August 2009, 726 Australian influenza isolates have been subtyped by the WHO CC in Melbourne. Of these, 315 influenza isolates have been antigenically characterized.

    In general, seasonal influenza A strains circulating this influenza season are the same as strains in the vaccine, with the A(H3N2) virus drifting. Influenza B strains match more closely with those in the 2009-10 Northern Hemisphere vaccine and may be drifting.
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    Antiviral Resistance

    Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

    The WHO has been notified of 12 cases of oseltamivir resistance to the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus, which have arisen in different parts of the world (Table 5).The isolates have a mutation in the neuraminidase (referred to as H275Y) that confers resistance to oseltamivir. The US CDC has reported 2 new cases of oseltamivir resistance, but have not formally notified the WHO.9 Of the 12 resistant cases, 8 have been associated with taking oseltamivir post exposure as a preventative measure; 1 with the treatment of an uncomplicated illness; 2 have been from severely immunosuppressed leukaemia patients receiving oseltamivir treatment; and there is no information for 1 case. The WHO has reported that there are no epidemiological links among these cases as well as no evidence of onward transmission. The isolates remain sensitive to zanamivir. 8


    In Australia, all of the 159 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 viral isolates tested have been sensitive to oseltamivir and zanamivir, and none of the 79 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 clinical specimens tested positive for the H275Y mutation which confers resistance to oseltamivir.

    The US CDC have reported an additional two cases of oseltamivir resistant strains of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in the week ending 15 August. These cases were associated with either treatment or prophylaxis with oseltamivir. All of the 376 pandemic (H1N1) viral isolates tested continue to be sensitive to zanamivir. 9

    In New Zealand, all of the 92 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 viruses tested up to 16 August 2009 continued to be sensitive to oseltamivir, including one from a fatal case of a 21 year-old male. None of the 12 pandemic (H1N1) 2009 clinical specimens tested positive for the H275Y mutation which confers resistance to oseltamavir. 10

    Seasonal Influenza

    The last WHO report on oseltamivir resistance to seasonal strains was released on 4 June 2009, during the Northern Hemisphere influenza season 2008-2009. This report stated that 96% of seasonal influenza A (H1N1) isolates tested from 36 countries worldwide were resistant to oseltamivir. 11

    In New Zealand, 28 seasonal A(H1N1) viruses have been tested up to 16 August 2009 for the H275Y mutation, which is known to confer resistance to oseltamivir. All 28 viruses tested had the mutation. 12

    The US CDC reported in the week ending 15 August that 99.6% of the seasonal A(H1N1) isolates tested were resistant to oseltamivir and 100% of the Influenza A(H3N2) isolates tested were resistant to adamantanes. 9

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    Data considerations

    The information in this report is reliant on the surveillance sources available to the Department of Health and Ageing. As access to sources increase and improve, this report will be refined and additional information will be included.

    This report aims to increase awareness of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and seasonal influenza in Australia by providing an analysis of the various surveillance data sources throughout Australia. While every care has been taken in preparing this report, the Commonwealth does not accept liability for any injury or loss or damage arising from the use of, or reliance upon, the content of the report. Please note, the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and seasonal influenza elements of this report are based on data available as at 21 August 2009. Delays in the reporting of data may cause data to change retrospectively. For further details about information contained in this report please contact the Influenza Team through flu@health.gov.au

    NetEpi

    All jurisdictions except QLD are reporting pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases using NetEpi, a web-based outbreak case reporting system. Data from jurisdictional systems are being imported into NetEpi by VIC, NSW, WA, TAS and SA, and the remainder are entering directly into NetEpi. QLD ceased reporting into NetEpi on 6 July 2009.

    Analyses of Australian cases are based on clinical onset date, if this information is available. Where an onset date is not available, notification date has been used. Victorian cases use a calculated onset date which is the earliest available date calculated from specimen date, onset date, notification date or detection date. This assumption was made for all calculations and data on which the figures are based.

    State and Territory reporting

    The jurisdictions report directly to the National Incident Room, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, on hospitalisations, numbers admitted to ICUs and deaths.

    National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS)

    NNDSS comprises of notifications from jurisdictions of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases. Laboratory confirmed influenza is notifiable in all jurisdictions in Australia. Confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases are being received from all jurisdictions through NNDSS except for Victoria and New South Wales.

    Laboratory Surveillance data

    Laboratory testing data are extracted from the ‘NSW Influenza Report,’ ‘The 2009 Victorian Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Audit Report’ (VIDRL) and the ‘South Australian Seasonal Influenza Report’. These reports are provided weekly.

    WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference & Research on Influenza (WHO CC)

    Data are provided weekly to the Surveillance Branch from the WHO CC.

    Sentinel General Practice Surveillance

    The Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPREN) has Sentinel GPs who report influenza-like-illness (ILI) presentation rates in NSW, SA, ACT, VIC, QLD, TAS and WA. As jurisdictions joined ASPREN at different times and the number of GPs reporting has changed over time, the representativeness of ASPREN data in 2009 may be different from that of previous years. ASPREN data are sent to the Surveillance Branch on a weekly basis. Northern Territory GP surveillance data are sent to the Surveillance Branch on a weekly basis. VIDRL influenza surveillance data are sent to the Surveillance Branch on a weekly basis.
    A new testing protocol introduced through ASPREN requires GPs to test all patients presenting with an ILI on one day of the week. These data should provide a cross section of age, sex and severity of patients who seek GP assistance for ILI. This system is in the early stages of implementation and will be further developed over coming weeks.

    Sentinel Emergency Department (ED) data

    WA - ED surveillance data are extracted from the ‘Virus Watch’ Report. This report is provided weekly. The Western Australia Influenza Surveillance Program collects data from 8 Perth Emergency Departments (EDs).

    NSW - ED surveillance data are extracted from the ‘NSW Influenza Surveillance Report’. This report is provided weekly. The New South Wales Influenza Surveillance Program collects data from 49 EDs across New South Wales.

    SA – ED surveillance data are extracted from the ‘South Australian Seasonal Influenza Report’. This report is provided weekly. The South Australian Influenza Surveillance Program collects data from 4 EDs in South Australia.
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    Absenteeism

    A national organisation provides data on the number of employees who have been on sick leave for a continuous period of more than three days. These data are not influenza or ILI specific and absenteeism may be a result of other illnesses.

    Mortality data

    Mortality data are extracted from the NSW Health ‘Weekly Influenza Epidemiology Report’ and the WA ‘Virus Watch’ Report.

    Paediatric hospital admissions data

    Reports of ICU admissions are provided to the Surveillance Branch on a weekly basis by the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit. APSU conducts surveillance of severe complications of influenza in children aged 15 years and under. Surveillance began on 1 June 2009.
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    References

    1. South Australian Seasonal Influenza Report No.13. Available from: http://www.dh.sa.gov.au/pehs/notifiable-diseases-summary/flu-resp-intro.htm
    2. Argentina Ministry of Health, Pandemic Situational Report. Available from: http://www.msal.gov.ar/h1n1/. Accessed 19 August 2009.
    3. Canada Public Health Agency, Flu Watch: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fluwatch/08-09/. Accessed 17 July 2009.
    4. CDC Influenza reports http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/pubs/. Accessed 19 August 2009.
    5. New Zealand Public Health Surveillance, Influenza Weekly Updates. Available at: http://www.surv.esr.cri.nz/virology/influenza_weekly_update.php. Accessed 30 July 2009.
    6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Hospital Morbidity Database. Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/hospitals/datacubes/index.cfm
    7. PAHO Regional Update. Pandemic (H1N1) 2009. Epidemiological Week 29 (July 31 2009). Available from: http://new.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1657&Itemid=1167. Accessed 5 August 2009.
    8. WHO Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 update 62. Available from: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/updates/en/index.html. Accessed 24 August 2009.
    9. CDC Influenza reports http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/pubs/. Accessed 24 August 2009.
    10. New Zealand Public Health Surveillance, Influenza Weekly Updates. Available at: http://www.surv.esr.cri.nz/virology/influenza_weekly_update.php. Accessed 24 August 2009.
    11. WHO Influenza A virus resistance to oseltamivir and other antiviral medicines, 4 June 2009. Available from:
    http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/en/. Accessed 12 August 2009.
    12. New Zealand Public Health Surveillance, Influenza Weekly Updates. Available at: http://www.surv.esr.cri.nz/virology/influenza_weekly_update.php. Accessed 24 August 2009.