• Open Access

The burden of influenza in East and South-East Asia: a review of the English language literature

Authors

  • James M. Simmerman,

    1. Influenza Division, Global Disease Detection/International Emerging Infections Program, Thailand MOPH-U.S. CDC Collaboration, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand
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  • Timothy M. Uyeki

    1. Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
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James M. Simmerman, PhD, RN, Influenza Section, Global Disease Detection/International Emerging Infections Program. Thailand MOPH-U.S. CDC Collaboration. Building 7, 4th Floor, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand 11000. Email: msimmerman@cdc.gov

Abstract

Abstract  While human infections with avian influenza A (H5NI) viruses in Asia have prompted concerns about an influenza pandemic, the burden of human influenza in East and Southeast Asia has received far less attention. We conducted a review of English language articles on influenza in 18 countries in East and Southeast Asia published from 1980 to 2006 that were indexed on PubMed. Articles that described human influenza-associated illnesses among outpatients or hospitalized patients, influenza-associated deaths, or influenza-associated socioeconomic costs were reviewed. We found 35 articles from 9 countries that met criteria for inclusion in the review. The quality of articles varied substantially. Significant heterogeneity was noted in case definitions, sampling schemes and laboratory methods. Early studies relied on cell culture, had difficulties with specimen collection and handling, and reported a low burden of disease. The recent addition of PCR testing has greatly improved the proportion of respiratory illnesses diagnosed with influenza. These more recent studies reported that 11–26% of outpatient febrile illness and 6-14% of hospitalized pneumonia cases had laboratory-confirmed influenza infection. The influenza disease burden literature from East and Southeast Asia is limited but expanding. Recent studies using improved laboratory testing methods and indirect statistical approaches report a substantial burden of disease, similar to that of Europe and North America. Current increased international focus on influenza, coupled with unprecedented funding for surveillance and research, provide a unique opportunity to more comprehensively describe the burden of human influenza in the region.

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