Background: Surveillance of acute respiratory infections (ARI) in the Netherlands and other European countries is based mostly on primary care data, with little insight into the severe spectrum of the disease. We compared time-trends for ARI in secondary care with influenza-like illness (ILI), ARI and pneumonia in primary care, and crude mortality, in order to assess the value of routinely collected data on respiratory infections in hospitals and the added value of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) surveillance.
Methods: We calculated incidence of ARI in secondary care, ILI, ARI, and pneumonia in primary care, and crude mortality using five historical databases (2008-2016).
Results: Over eight years, seasonal incidence peaks of ARI in secondary care occurred earlier than ILI and ARI incidence peaks in primary care, except during the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic and post-pandemic season. The median time-lag between ARI in secondary care and ILI, ARI and pneumonia in primary care was 6.5 weeks, 7 weeks, and 1 week, respectively. Crude mortality lagged a median 5 weeks behind ARI in secondary care.
Conclusion: This observational study demonstrates that routinely collected data can be used for describing trends of ARI in secondary care and may be suitable for near real-time SARI surveillance. In most seasons, the incidence peaks for ARI in secondary care preceded the peaks in primary care and crude mortality with a considerable time-lag. It would be of great value to add microbiological test results to the incidence data to better explain the difference in time-lag between these surveillance systems.