The relationship between the global burden of influenza from 2017 to 2019 and COVID-19: Descriptive epidemiological assessment

Baral, Stefan David and Rucinski, Katherine Blair and Rwema, Jean Olivier Twahirwa and Rao, Amrita and Menezes, Neia Prata and Diouf, Daouda and Kamarulzaman, Adeeba and Phaswana-Mafuya, Nancy and Mishra, Sharmistha (2021) The relationship between the global burden of influenza from 2017 to 2019 and COVID-19: Descriptive epidemiological assessment. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 7 (3). ISSN 2369-2960, DOI

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Background: SARS-CoV-2 and influenza are lipid-enveloped viruses with differential morbidity and mortality but shared modes of transmission. Objective: With a descriptive epidemiological framing, we assessed whether recent historical patterns of regional influenza burden are reflected in the observed heterogeneity in COVID-19 cases across regions of the world. Methods: Weekly surveillance data reported by the World Health Organization from January 2017 to December 2019 for influenza and from January 1, 2020 through October 31, 2020, for COVID-19 were used to assess seasonal and temporal trends for influenza and COVID-19 cases across the seven World Bank regions. Results: In regions with more pronounced influenza seasonality, COVID-19 epidemics have largely followed trends similar to those seen for influenza from 2017 to 2019. COVID-19 epidemics in countries across Europe, Central Asia, and North America have been marked by a first peak during the spring, followed by significant reductions in COVID-19 cases in the summer months and a second wave in the fall. In Latin America and the Caribbean, COVID-19 epidemics in several countries peaked in the summer, corresponding to months with the highest influenza activity in the region. Countries from regions with less pronounced influenza activity, including South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, showed more heterogeneity in COVID-19 epidemics seen to date. However, similarities in COVID-19 and influenza trends were evident within select countries irrespective of region. Conclusions: Ecological consistency in COVID-19 trends seen to date with influenza trends suggests the potential for shared individual, structural, and environmental determinants of transmission. Using a descriptive epidemiological framework to assess shared regional trends for rapidly emerging respiratory pathogens with better studied respiratory infections may provide further insights into the differential impacts of nonpharmacologic interventions and intersections with environmental conditions. Ultimately, forecasting trends and informing interventions for novel respiratory pathogens like COVID-19 should leverage epidemiologic patterns in the relative burden of past respiratory pathogens as prior information.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; Influenza; Descriptive epidemiology; Epidemiology; Assessment; Relationship; Flu; Virus; Burden; Global health; Public health; Transmission; Pattern
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine
Depositing User: Ms Zaharah Ramly
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2022 04:23
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2022 04:23

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