National flu surveillance network remains vigilant

Friday, 13 March 2015

The University of Adelaide has again been awarded the nation's key surveillance role to collect and report on influenza-like illness across Australia.

The contract, awarded by the Australian Government Department of Health until January 2017, means the University will have officially conducted this critical service for more than a decade.

Utilising a network of more than 200 GPs and medical practices across each state and territory, the Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPREN), based in the University's School of Population Health, reports on cases of influenza-like illness to assist in responses to potential flu and respiratory disease epidemics.

"This work provides vital and timely information to health authorities and aims to detect outbreaks in the community before they reach epidemic proportions," says the Director of ASPREN, Professor Nigel Stocks, who is Head of General Practice at the University of Adelaide.

"Typically, GPs will swab test patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and the results of these tests help to provide a national picture of the flu virus subtypes circulating in the community.  It helps us to track which respiratory viruses are most common at a particular time of year, as well as providing information about the effectiveness of the current flu vaccine."

Professor Stocks says the frontline data collected by ASPREN's health network is used in conjunction with data from hospitals and the community to inform decision-making by the Federal Government.

"This work is critical in terms of being able to monitor and respond to impending  pandemics.  At a local level, it assists in planning for health care and support services when an alert for a pandemic is issued at a national or global level," he says.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to five million cases of severe illness and as many as 500,000 deaths occur globally each year associated with influenza.  It's estimated that Australia experiences between 1500-2500 influenza-related deaths each year, with many other patients having prolonged illnesses and days off work.
ASPREN officially started at the University of Adelaide in 2006 and was developed from the national surveillance network established by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 1991.


Contact Details

Professor Nigel Stocks
Director of ASPREN
Head of General Practice
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3462
Mobile: 0424 260 394

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762