Surveillance of influenza in Iceland during the 2009 pandemic.

G. Sigmundsdottir*, T. Gudnason, Ö Ólafsson, G. E. Baldvinsdottir, A. Atladottir, A. Löve, L. Danon, H. Briem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In a pandemic setting, surveillance is essential to monitor the spread of the disease and assess its impact. Appropriate mitigation and healthcare preparedness strategies depend on fast and accurate epidemic surveillance data. During the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, rapid improvements in influenza surveillance were made in Iceland. Here, we describe the improvements made in influenza surveillance during the pandemic , which could also be of great value in outbreaks caused by other pathogens. Following the raised level of pandemic influenza alert in April 2009, influenza surveillance was intensified. A comprehensive automatic surveillance system for influenza-like illness was developed, surveillance of influenza-related deaths was established and laboratory surveillance for influenza was strengthened. School absenteeism reports were also collected and compared with results from the automatic surveillance system. The first case of 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) was diagnosed in Iceland in May 2009, but sustained community transmission was not confirmed until mid-August. The pandemic virus circulated during the summer and early autumn before an abrupt increase in the number of cases was observed in October. There were large outbreaks in elementary schools for children aged 6-15 years throughout the country that peaked in late October. School absenteeism reports from all elementary schools in Iceland gave a similar epidemiological curve as that from data from the healthcare system. Estimates of the proportion of the population infected with the pandemic virus ranged from 10% to 22%. This study shows how the sudden need for improved surveillance in the pandemic led to rapid improvements in data collection in Iceland. This reporting system will be improved upon and expanded to include other notifiable diseases, to ensure accurate and timely collection of epidemiological data.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2010


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