Comparability of different methods for estimating influenza infection rates over a single epidemic wave

Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Aug 15;174(4):468-78. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr113. Epub 2011 Jun 30.


Estimation of influenza infection rates is important for determination of the extent of epidemic spread and for calculation of severity indicators. The authors compared estimated infection rates from paired and cross-sectional serologic surveys, rates of influenza like illness (ILI) obtained from sentinel general practitioners (GPs), and ILI samples that tested positive for influenza using data from similar periods collected during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic in Singapore. The authors performed sensitivity analyses to assess the robustness of estimates to input parameter uncertainties, and they determined sample sizes required for differing levels of precision. Estimates from paired seroconversion were 17% (95% Bayesian credible interval (BCI): 14, 20), higher than those from cross-sectional serology (12%, 95% BCI: 9, 17). Adjusted ILI estimates were 15% (95% BCI: 10, 25), and estimates computed from ILI and laboratory data were 12% (95% BCI: 8, 18). Serologic estimates were least sensitive to the risk of input parameter misspecification. ILI-based estimates were more sensitive to parameter misspecification, though this was lessened by incorporation of laboratory data. Obtaining a 5-percentage-point spread for the 95% confidence interval in infection rates would require more than 1,000 participants per serologic study, a sentinel network of 90 GPs, or 50 GPs when combined with laboratory samples. The various types of estimates will provide comparable findings if accurate input parameters can be obtained.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Singapore / epidemiology