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Usefulness of a pluralistic approach in sentinel surveillance: seasonal influenza activity based on case counts per sentinel site in the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases Program and test counts, case counts, and test positivity from the National Hospital Organization.

In Japan, based on the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases (NESID) Program, influenza cases from ~5,000 sentinel sites are monitored weekly as part of influenza surveillance (as number of influenza cases/sentinel site). One limitation is that the number of influenza tests conducted is not reported. Separately, the National Hospital Organization (NHO), with ~140 hospitals, routinely publishes three indicators: number of influenza tests, influenza-positive case counts, and test positivity. We used NESID and NHO data from April 2011 to June 2022 to assess the usefulness of multiple indicators to monitor influenza activity. Temporal trends of the NHO and NESID indicators were similar, and NHO indicator levels well-correlated with those of the NESID indicator. Influenza positivity in the NHO data, however, showed an earlier rise and peak time compared to the NESID indicator. Importantly, through the non-epidemic summer periods and the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, a sizable number of influenza tests continued to be done at NHO hospitals, with results showing considerably low case counts and test positivity. These data show that a relatively small number of sentinel sites is sufficient to monitor influenza activity nationally, and, that utilizing multiple indicators can increase our confidence in situational awareness and data interpretations.

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