Welcome to FluTracking, the surveillance system that harnesses the power of the internet and community spirit for monitoring 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.
The main aims of FluTracking are to develop a system that can provide:
- Community level influenza-like illness surveillance
- Consistent surveillance of influenza activity across all jurisdictions and over time; and
- Year-to-year comparison of the timing, attack rates, and seriousness of influenza in the community.
After registering as a volunteer FluTracker, you’ll receive a weekly email from us during the traditional flu season (April/May to October). The email contains a link to an online survey form.
On the first visit you’ll be asked to provide the following information:
- Month and year of birth
- 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, you’ll be asked about the presence of typical flu-like symptoms like:
If you answer ‘yes’ to both fever and cough, you’ll get these follow-up questions about:
- 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 below to watch a short video about answering the FluTracking survey.
The FluTracking Surveillance System in New Zealand
Click here to view more participant demographic information for 2018.
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. The following year, there were over 1,600. The higher rate was due to a new feature introduced in 2008 which allowed participants to answer the survey on behalf of their household members.
Since then, the number of FluTrackers has continued to rise. More than 10,000 people have been answering the weekly survey every year since 2010 and more than 40,000 participants answered their surveys in 2019.
Participation in FluTracking Australia increased by 34% from 2017 to 45,532 participants in 2018
Click here to see more participant demographic information for 2018.
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.
2018 Survey Results
2018 fever and cough levels for Australia were the lowest on record in FluTracking data.
You showed us that the 2018 influenza season had lower levels of influenza-like illness activity than in 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 the 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 tests 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.
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.
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%).
In 2018, fever and cough levels among New Zealand FluTrackers showed a peak at the beginning of August.
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.
Thank You, FluTrackers!
We look forward to FluTracking again with you in 2019!