Online searches of children's oseltamivir in public primary and specialized care: Detecting influenza outbreaks in Finland using dedicated databases for health care professionals

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 5;17(8):e0272040. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272040. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: Health care professionals working in primary and specialized care typically search for medical information from Internet sources. In Finland, Physician's Databases are online portals aimed at professionals seeking medical information. As dosage errors may occur when prescribing medication to children, professionals' need for reliable medical information has increased in public health care centers and hospitals. Influenza continues to be a public health threat, with young children at risk of developing severe illness and easily transmitting the virus. Oseltamivir is used to treat children with influenza. The objective of this study was to compare searches for children's oseltamivir and influenza diagnoses in primary and specialized care, and to determine if the searches could aid detection of influenza outbreaks.

Methods: We compared searches in Physician's Databases for children's oral suspension of oseltamivir (6 mg/mL) for influenza diagnoses of children under 7 years and laboratory findings of influenza A and B from the National Infectious Disease Register. Searches and diagnoses were assessed in primary and specialized care across Finland by season from 2012-2016. The Moving Epidemic Method (MEM) calculated seasonal starts and ends, and paired differences in the mean compared two indicators. Correlation was tested to compare seasons.

Results: We found that searches and diagnoses in primary and specialized care showed visually similar patterns annually. The MEM-calculated starting weeks in searches appeared mainly in the same week. Oseltamivir searches in primary care preceded diagnoses by -1.0 weeks (95% CI: -3.0, -0.3; p = 0.132) with very high correlation (τ = 0.913). Specialized care oseltamivir searches and diagnoses correlated moderately (τ = 0.667).

Conclusion: Health care professionals' searches for children's oseltamivir in online databases linked with the registers of children's influenza diagnoses in primary and specialized care. Therefore, database searches should be considered as supplementary information in disease surveillance when detecting influenza epidemics.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / diagnosis
  • Influenza, Human* / drug therapy
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Oseltamivir* / therapeutic use


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Oseltamivir

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.