Sentinel surveillance usually underestimates the true burden of influenza in a population, as individuals must present to medical establishments to be included in the surveillance system. We carried out a telephone survey to estimate the national burden of influenza in the Swedish population for one week during the 2004/05 influenza season. Fixed-line telephone numbers were randomly sampled and households interviewed concerning influenza illness between 14-20 February 2005 (Week 7 of 2005). Questions regarding seasonal influenza vaccination status, symptoms and the impact of illness on daily life were also included. A self-defined influenza prevalence of 7.7% in week 7 of 2005 was estimated. On applying a case definition of 'cough and fever and muscle pain' for influenza like illness, the prevalence decreased to 3.6%. The survey provided insight into the burden of illness in the population further to that estimated through the sentinel surveillance system.