Influenzanet is a system to monitor the activity of influenza-like-illness (ILI) with the aid of volunteers via the internet

http://www.influenzanet.eu/

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Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure.
http://www.epiwork.eu/

The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) bundles all research-related EU initiatives.

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Participating countries and volunteers:

The Netherlands 13007
Belgium 4010
Portugal 1880
Italy 3522
Great Britain 5190
Sweden 0
Germany 105
Austria 28
Switzerland 35
France 5921
Spain 869
Ireland 499
Denmark 0
InfluenzaNet is a system to monitor the activity of influenza-like-illness (ILI) with the aid of volunteers via the internet. It has been operational in The Netherlands and Belgium (since 2003), Portugal (since 2005) and Italy (since 2008), and the current objective is to implement InfluenzaNet in more European countries.

In contrast with the traditional system of sentinel networks of mainly primary care physicians coordinated by the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS), InfluenzaNet obtains its data directly from the population. This creates a fast and flexible monitoring system whose uniformity allows for direct comparison of ILI rates between countries.

Any resident of a country where InfluenzaNet is implemented can participate by completing an online application form, which contains various medical, geographic and behavioural questions. Participants are reminded weekly to report any symptoms they have experienced since their last visit. The incidence of ILI is determined on the basis of a uniform case definition.

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Unique flu virus found in bats

Unique flu virus found in bats

“We've had bird flu and swine flu - now scientists have found BAT FLU,” says the Daily Mail. The newspaper reports that the strain “could pose a risk to humans if it mingled with more common forms of flu”.

The Mail has got in a flap over the flying mammals based on new research that found type A flu virus in fruit bats captured in Guatemala in Central America. The discovery in bats is new as the virus is typically found in winged birds, and not winged mammals.

Researchers collected 316 bats of 16 different Latin American species. Types of flu virus were found in three bats of the little yellow-shouldered species, which is a fruit eating variety common across Central and South America. After analysing the genetic code of the bat flu virus the scientists concluded it contained segments that were significantly different from those found in known influenza A viruses. They also found that some aspects of the bat flu virus could work inside human lung cells grown in the lab. This led them to conclude that the virus has the potential to mix with human flu virus, which could, in rare circumstances, lead to the creation of a new flu strain that is capable of causing a flu pandemic, like bird flu or swine flu.

Despite this warning, scientists have not been able to grow the new bat virus in chicken eggs or human cells, which is possible with existing flu strains. This suggests that the immediate risk of infection to humans is small. Rather than highlighting a danger to human health, this study is likely to guide further research that may improve the understanding of potential pandemic flu threats to humans in the future.

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March 8, 2012, 10:48 a.m.