Background: Although deaths associated with laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections are rare, the excess mortality burden of influenza estimated from statistical models may more reliably quantify the impact of influenza in a population.
Methods: We applied age-specific multiple linear regression models to all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates in Hong Kong from 1998 through 2009. The differences between estimated mortality rates in the presence or absence of recorded influenza activity were used to estimate influenza-associated excess mortality.
Results: The annual influenza-associated all-cause excess mortality rate was 11.1 (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.2-14.6) per 100,000 person-years. We estimated an average of 751 (95% CI, 488-990) excess deaths associated with influenza annually from 1998 through 2009, with 95% of the excess deaths occurring in persons aged ≥65 years. Most of the influenza-associated excess deaths were from respiratory (53%) and cardiovascular (18%) causes. Influenza A(H3N2) epidemics were associated with more excess deaths than influenza A(H1N1) or B during the study period.
Conclusions: Influenza was associated with a substantial number of excess deaths each year, mainly among the elderly, in Hong Kong in the past decade. The influenza-associated excess mortality rates were generally similar in Hong Kong and the United States.