Background: There are limited data on the burden of disease posed by influenza in low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, most estimates of influenza disease burden worldwide rely on passive sentinel surveillance at health clinics and hospitals that lack accurate population denominators.
Methods: We documented influenza incidence, seasonality, health-system utilization with influenza illness, and vaccination coverage through active community-based surveillance in 4 ecologically distinct regions of Peru over 6 years. Approximately 7200 people in 1500 randomly selected households were visited 3 times per week. Naso- and oropharyngeal swabs were collected from persons with influenza-like illness and tested for influenza virus by real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction.
Results: We followed participants for 35353 person-years (PY). The overall incidence of influenza was 100 per 1000 PY (95% confidence interval [CI], 97-104) and was highest in children aged 2-4 years (256/1000 PY [95% CI, 236-277]). Seasonal incidence trends were similar across sites, with 61% of annual influenza cases occurring during the austral winter (May-September). Of all participants, 44 per 1000 PY (95% CI, 42-46) sought medical care, 0.7 per 1000 PY (95% CI, 0.4-1.0) were hospitalized, and 1 person died (2.8/100000 PY). Influenza vaccine coverage was 27% among children aged 6-23 months and 26% among persons aged ≥65 years.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that 1 in 10 persons develops influenza each year in Peru, with the highest incidence in young children. Active community-based surveillance allows for a better understanding of the true burden and seasonality of disease that is essential to plan the optimal target groups, timing, and cost of national influenza vaccination programs.