Influenza viruses cause seasonal epidemics whose intensity varies according to the circulating virus type and subtype. We aim to estimate influenza-like illness (ILI) incidence attributable to influenza viruses in France from October 2014 to May 2019. Physicians participating in the French Sentinelles network reported the number of patients with ILI seen in consultation and performed nasopharyngeal swabs in a sample of these patients. The swabs were tested by RT-PCR for the presence of influenza viruses. These clinical and virological data were combined to estimate ILI incidence attributable to influenza viruses by subtypes and age groups. Influenza incidence rates over seasons ranged from 1.9 (95% CI, 1.9; 2.0) to 3.4% (95% CI, 3.2; 3.6) of the population. Each season, more than half of ILI cases were attributable to influenza. Children under 15 years were the most affected, with influenza incidence rates ranging from 3.0 (95% CI, 2.8;3.3) to 5.7% (95% CI, 5.3;6.1). Co-circulation of several (sub)types of influenza viruses was observed each year, except in 2016/2017 where A(H3N2) viruses accounted for 98.0% of the influenza cases. Weekly ILI incidences attributable to each influenza virus (sub)type were mostly synchronized with ILI incidence, except in 2014/2015 and 2017/2018, where incidence attributable to type B viruses peaked few weeks later. The burden of medically attended influenza among patients with ILI is significant in France, varying considerably across years and age groups. These results show the importance of influenza surveillance in primary care combining clinical and virological data.
Keywords: Influenza; Influenza-like illness (ILI); Primary care; Surveillance.