Incidence, circulation, and spatiotemporal analysis of seasonal influenza in Shandong, China, 2008-2019: A retrospective study

Background: Understanding the influenza-like illness (ILI) incidence, circulation pattern of virus strains and spatiotemporal pattern of influenza transmission are important for designing control interventions. Based on the 10 years´ surveillance data, we aimed to provide a baseline characterization and the epidemiology and dynamics of influenza virus in Shandong.

Methods: We extracted surveillance and laboratory testing data. We estimated the ILI incidence and analyzed the predominant virus. A wavelet power analysis was used to illustrate the periodicity. In addition, we applied a linear regression model to characterize the correlation of influenza seasonality with longitude.

Results: The average ILI incidence was estimated to be 3744.79 per 1 million (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2558.09-4931.45) during 2009-2018. Influenza A/H1N1 and A/H3N2 strains predominated in the most influenza seasons in Shandong. The annual amplitude of influenza epidemics decreased with longitude (P < 0.05). In contrast, the epidemic peak of influenza emerged earlier in the western region and increased with longitude in influenza A (P < 0.05). The annual peak of the influenza B epidemic lagged a median of 4.2 weeks compared with that of influenza A.

Conclusions: The development or modification of seasonal influenza vaccination strategies requires the recognition that the incidence is higher in preschool- and school-aged children. Although seasonal influenza circulates annually in Shandong, the predominant virus strain circulation pattern is extremely unpredictable and strengthening surveillance for the predominant virus strain is necessary. Lower longitude inland regions need to take nonpharmaceutical or pharmaceutical interventions in advance during influenza high-occurrence seasons.