Lu J, Yang Z, Karawita AC, Bunte M, Chew KY, Pegg. Limited evidence for the role of environmental factors in the unusual peak of influenza in Brisbane during the 2018-2019 Australian summer. Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 19;776:145967
Methods: Distributed lag nonlinear models (DLNMs) were used to estimate the effect of environmental factors on weekly influenza incidence in Brisbane. Next generation sequencing was then employed to analyze minor and majority variants in influenza strains isolated from Brisbane children during this period.
Results: There were limited marked differences in the environmental factors observed in Brisbane between the 2018-2019 summer period and the same period of the proceeding years, with the exception of significant reduction in rainfall. DLNM showed that reduced rainfall in Brisbane (at levels consistent with the 2018-2019 period) correlated with a dramatic increase in the relative risk of influenza. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels were also increased in the 2018-2019 period, although these levels did not correlate with an increased risk of influenza. Sequencing of a limited number of pediatric influenza virus strains isolated during the 2018-2019 showed numerous mutations within the viral HA.
Conclusions: Taken together, these data suggest a limited role for key environmental factors in the influenza activity observed in Brisbane, Australia during the summer of 2018-2019. One alternative explanation may that viral factors, in addition to other factors not studied herein, contributed to the unusual influenza season. Our findings provide fundamental information that may be beneficial to a better understanding of the seasonal trends of influenza virus.
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