, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 69-72

Increased emergency department chief complaints of fever identified the influenza (H1N1) pandemic before outpatient symptom surveillance

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Abstract

Objective

To determine whether a sentinel clinic network or an emergency department (ED) was more timely in identifying the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.

Methods

All reasons for presenting to the adult regional medical ED were coded online by admission secretaries, without the aid of medical personnel. Increased influenza activity defined by weekly chief complaints of fever was compared with activity defined by the Israel Center for Disease Control (viral surveillance as well as a large sentinel clinic network).

Results

Influenza activity during the pandemic increased in the ED 2 weeks before outpatient sentinel clinics. During the pandemic, maximal ED activity was much higher than in previous seasons. Maximal activity during the past 5 years correlated with the timeliness of the chief complaint of fever in identifying the onset of epidemics.

Conclusion

Chief complaint of fever in the ED can be a sensitive marker of increased influenza activity and might replace the use of sentinel clinics.