Background: There is little information about influenza disease among the Cambodian population. To better understand the dynamics of influenza in Cambodia, the Cambodian National Influenza Center (NIC) was established in August 2006. To continuously monitor influenza activity, a hospital based sentinel surveillance system for ILI (influenza like illness) with a weekly reporting and sampling scheme was established in five sites in 2006. In addition, hospital based surveillance of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) cases was established in 2 sites.
Methods: The sentinel sites collect weekly epidemiological data on ILI patients fulfilling the case definition, and take naso-pharyngeal specimens from a defined number of cases per week. The samples are tested in the Virology Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Phnom Penh. From each sample viral RNA was extracted and amplified by a multiplex RT-PCR detecting simultaneously influenza A and influenza B virus. Influenza A viruses were then subtyped and analyzed by hemagglutination inhibition assay. Samples collected by the ALRI system were tested with the same approach.
Results: From 2006 to 2008, influenza circulation was observed mainly from June to December, with a clear seasonal peak in October shown in the data from 2008.
Conclusion: Influenza activity in Cambodia occurred during the rainy season, from June to December, and ended before the cool season (extending usually from December to February). Although Cambodia is a tropical country geographically located in the northern hemisphere, influenza activity has a southern hemisphere transmission pattern. Together with the antigenic analysis of the circulating strains, it is now possible to give better influenza vaccination recommendation for Cambodia.