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OBJECTIVE: To describe changes in reported influenza activity associated with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in European countries and determine whether there is a correlation between these changes and completeness of national strategic pandemic preparedness. DESIGN: A retrospective correlational study. SETTING: Countries were included if their national strategic plans had previously been analysed and if weekly influenza-like illness (ILI) data from sentinel networks between week 21, 2006 and week 20, 2010 were more than 50% complete. OUTCOME MEASURES: For each country we calculated three outcomes: the percentage change in ILI peak height during the pandemic relative to the prepandemic mean; the timing of the ILI peak and the percentage change in total cases relative to the prepandemic mean. Correlations between these outcomes and completeness of a country's national strategic pandemic preparedness plan were assessed using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. RESULTS: Nineteen countries were included. The ILI peak occurred earlier than the mean seasonal peak in 17 countries. In 14 countries the pandemic peak was higher than the seasonal peak, though the difference was large only in Norway, the UK and Greece. Nine countries experienced more total ILI cases during the pandemic compared with the mean for prepandemic years. Five countries experienced two distinct pandemic peaks. There was no clear pattern of correlation between overall completeness of national strategic plans and pandemic influenza outcome measures and no evidence of association between these outcomes and components of pandemic plans that might plausibly affect influenza outcomes (public health interventions, vaccination, antiviral use, public communication). Amongst the 17 countries with a clear pandemic peak, only the correlation between planning for essential services and change in total ILI cases significantly differed from zero: correlation coefficient (95% CI) 0.50 (0.02, 0.79). CONCLUSIONS: The diversity of pandemic influenza outcomes across Europe is not explained by the marked variation in the completeness of pandemic plans.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

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