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 Australia-wide. Over the 11 years the survey has been running we have grown to over 26,000 participants per week who have collectively completed over three million surveys!
A simple online survey that takes less than 15 seconds each week during flu season can tell us so much. View the Latest Weekly Report.
The FluTracking Program
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 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. In 2016 over 26,000 participants completed the survey each week.
By comparing the rate of symptoms between vaccinated and unvaccinated particpants 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 rapidly determine:
- the onset of influenza in Australia and subregions
- the severity of circulating influenza strains
- if influenza strains have changed
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 nationally, for the four weeks of peak influenza activity beginning week ending 09/08/2015 to 30/08/2015 and 15/08/2016 to 05/09/2016 .
Of our participants that reported fever and cough in 2015 and 2016, there was a slightly lower proportion of participants seeking medical advice for flu-like illness in 2016, as compared to 2015, but a slightly higher proportion of Flutrackers testing positive for influenza in 2016, as compared to 2015.
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:
- Date of birth
- Receipt of influenza vaccine in the current and the preceding year
- Face to face contact with patients
- Postcode of residence
On subsequent weekly visits to the form, they are asked about the presence of typical flu-like symptoms like:
- Number of days absent from normal duties
- Visits to health care providers
- Results of laboratory tests for influenza
To see a short video of the survey screens see below:
You showed us that 2016 was a “moderate” year for influenza activity in the community, but milder than 2015.
Community influenza-like illness had a lower impact on children in 2016 than it did in 2015.
Collectively Flutrackers had 34,959 days (95.7 years!) off work or normal duties due to fever and cough symptoms. However, there were lower levels of time off work and seeking medical advice patterns for flu-like illness in 2016, as compared to 2015. There were higher proportions of Flutrackers testing positive for influenza in 2016, as compared to 2015.
In total, over 650,000 surveys were completed by Flutrackers throughout 2016. There were 30,898 Flutrackers who completed at least one survey this year compared to 27,824 in 2015 thanks to you inviting your friends, family and colleagues to join Flutracking. This is an 11% increase on the number of surveys completed last year, so thank you for your help!
We look forward to Flutracking again with you in 2017!