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Research will help flu fight

Research will help flu fight

Health experts say recent media reports on the upsurge of people arriving at hospitals with influenza like illnesses is further evidence of the importance of international efforts to better understand the burden of the influenza virus and how to prevent its spread.

The ESR led SHIVERS (Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness, Research and Surveillance) project is a five year multi-million dollar study funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The project has established two enhanced real-time surveillance systems (one hospital based and one community based) covering a population of 838,000 in the Auckland region, and is aimed at assessing the risk factors associated with influenza, its social and economic burden and the effectiveness of vaccine.

It is expected that the results of the study will have global significance and impact on the way influenza is managed in the future.

Despite signals that international budgets could be at risk, full funding for Year 4 of the project has just been awarded.

Health Programme Leader at ESR Dr Virginia Hope says the $US1.5m budget is a sure sign of the confidence the CDC has in the expertise of the project team and the results they have produced to date.

“SHIVERS is considered the CDC’s flagship international project and I’m really confident that it will result in health agencies across the world being able to better plan for and protect against flu epidemics and pandemics.

“The project has already made an impact, contributing to the refinement of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) case definition and also supporting the decision made by the Ministry of Health to extend free influenza vaccination to young children with respiratory illness,” Dr Hope says.

The results of this year’s study will be announced at the SHIVERS Annual Science Meeting in Auckland in early November.

SHIVERS is a multi-agency collaborative research project between ESR, Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB), University of Otago, University of Auckland, the CDC and the WHO Influenza Collaborating Centre at St Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, USA. The project also relies on the contribution of primary care partners, including 16 general practices in the ADHB and CMDHB catchment area.


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