About FluTracking

Welcome to FluTracking.net, the project which harnesses the power of the internet for tracking influenza. By taking part, you’ll not only be contributing to scientific research, you will be helping to track influenza in your local community and nation-wide. Over the 13 years the survey has been running in Australia (and now in New Zealand) we have grown to over 40,000 participants per week who have collectively completed over 5 million surveys!

A simple online survey that takes less than 10 seconds each week during flu season can tell us so much.

Weekly Survey

After the volunteers are recruited and provide informed consent they receive a weekly email from us during the traditional influenza season (usually from May 1 to October 30). The email contains a link to an online survey form.

On the first visit they provide the following information:

  • Month and year of birth
  • Gender
  • Receipt of influenza vaccine in the preceding year
  • Postcode of residence
  • Indigenous status (AU) or ethnicity (NZ)
  • Face to face contact with patients (for participants 15 years or older)
  • Highest level of education (for participants 15 years or older)

On subsequent weekly visits to the form, they are asked about the presence of typical flu-like symptoms like::

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Number of days absent from normal duties
  • Visits to health care providers
  • Results of laboratory tests for Influenza
  • Receipt of influenza vaccine in the current year

Click the play button to see a short video of the survey screens.

(make sure you have access to YouTube to see the video)

New Zealand Launch

FluTracking launched in New Zealand in May, 2018. There were approximately 4000 New Zealand participants per week, or a participation rate of 1 in every 1200 New Zealanders. To date, over 6000 people, representing 507 postcodes across the North Island and South Island, have registered with FluTracking.

Total NZ Participants

 

Click here to see more participant demographic information.

The FluTracking Program in Australia

FluTracking was launched in the Australian winter of 2006 with 400 “FluTrackers” completing a 10 – 15 second online survey about flu-like symptoms each week.

In the winter of 2007 this increased to approximately 800 participants. From 2008 onwards participants were able to answer the survey on behalf of household members; this substantially increased the participation rate to over 1600 people in the winter of 2008.

In the winter of 2007 this increased to approximately 800 participants. From 2008 onwards participants were able to answer the survey on behalf of household member; this substantially increased the participation rate to over 1600 people in the winter of 2008.

The number of participants has continued to increase each year, with over 10,000 people answering the survey every year since 2010.

Participation in FluTracking Australia increased by 34% from 2017 to 45,532 participants in 2018

2018 Participation Growth Chart

 

Click here to see more participant demographic information

By comparing the rate of symptoms between vaccinated and unvaccinated participants we were able detect when influenza struck because the unvaccinated people had much higher rates of illness than the vaccinated people.

The main aims of FluTracking are to develop a system that can provide:

  1. Community level influenza-like illness surveillance
  2. Consistent surveillance of influenza activity across all jurisdictions and over time; and
  3. Year-to-year comparison of the timing, attack rates, and seriousness of influenza in the community.

2018 Survey Results

Australia

2018 fever and cough levels for Australia were the lowest on record in FluTracking data.

2017-2018 Fever and Cough Levels Chart

You showed us that the 2018 influenza season had lower levels of influenza-like illness activity than recent years, as well as lower levels of associated absenteeism. Collectively FluTrackers had 40,850 days (112 years!) off work or normal duties due to fever and cough symptoms. However, this was much lower than 2017 absenteeism levels.

A burden of illness pyramid is a method for estimating the relationship between influenza-like illness at the community level with national influenza laboratory reports. The figure below describes surveillance levels from cough and fever through to positive laboratory test for influenza (self-reported) among FluTracking participants across Australia, for the four weeks of peak influenza activity beginning week ending 06/08/2017 to 27/08/2017 and 12/08/2018 to 02/09/2018.

One sixth as many FluTrackers tested positive for influenza in 2018, as compared to 2017.

2018-2018 Positive Influenza Comparison Chart

Of our participants that reported fever and cough in 2017 and 2018, there was a lower proportion of participants seeking medical advice for flu-like illness in 2018, as compared to 2017, and a lower proportion of FluTrackers testing positive for influenza in 2018, as compared to 2017.

More than 3 times as many young children were vaccinated in 2018, as compared to 2017.
2017-2018 Child Vaccination Rate Comparison Chart

Vaccination coverage in 2018 was 55.7% in participants aged under five compared to a five year average of 16.2%. Vaccination coverage in 2018 was also higher in older participants, and markedly so in the 5 to 17 year age group (32.2% for 2018 compared to a five year average of 16.2%).

New Zealand

In 2018, fever and cough levels among New Zealand FluTrackers showed a peak at the beginning of August.

2018 Fever and Cough Percent NZ Chart

A burden of illness pyramid is a method for estimating the relationship between influenza-like illness at the community level with national influenza laboratory reports. The figure below describes surveillance levels from cough and fever through to positive laboratory test for influenza (self-reported) among FluTracking participants across New Zealand, for the four weeks of peak influenza activity beginning week ending 05/08/2017 to 26/08/2017.

Only a small proportion of those who reported fever and cough during the peak influenza activity tested positive for influenza.

Vaccination coverage was comparatively lower in the younger age groups.

2018 Vaccination Rate NZ Chart

Thank You, FluTrackers!

In total for Australia and New Zealand, over 1 million surveys were completed by FluTrackers throughout 2018. There were 51,616 Australian and New Zealand FluTrackers who completed at least one survey this year compared to 33,947 Australian FluTrackers in 2017 thanks to you inviting your friends, family and colleagues to join FluTracking. This is a 52% increase on the number of surveys completed last year, so thank you for your help!

We look forward to FluTracking again with you in 2019!