Interpreting specific and general respiratory indicators in syndromic surveillance


Public Health England (PHE) uses syndromic surveillance systems to monitor for seasonal increases in respiratory illness. Respiratory illnesses create a considerable burden on health care services and therefore identifying the timing and intensity of peaks of activity is important for public health decision-making. Furthermore, identifying the incidence of specific respiratory pathogens circulating in the community is essential for targeting public health interventions e.g. vaccination. Syndromic surveillance can provide early warning of increases, but cannot explicitly identify the pathogens responsible for such increases.

PHE uses a range of general and specific respiratory syndromic indicators in their syndromic surveillance systems, e.g. “all respiratory disease”, “influenza-like illness”, “bronchitis” and “cough”. Previous research has shown that “influenza-like illness” is associated with influenza circulating in the community1 whilst “cough” and “bronchitis” syndromic indicators in children under 5 are associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)2, 3. However, the relative burden of other pathogens, e.g. rhinovirus and parainfluenza is less well understood. We have sought to further understand the relationship between specific pathogens and syndromic indicators and to improve estimates of disease burden. Therefore, we modelled the association between pathogen incidence, using laboratory reports and health care presentations, using syndromic data. 


To improve understanding of the relative burden of different causative respiratory pathogens on respiratory syndromic indicators monitored using syndromic surveillance systems in England. 

Primary Topic Areas: 
Original Publication Year: 
Event/Publication Date: 
December, 2016

July 10, 2017

Contact Us

NSSP Community of Practice



This website is supported by Cooperative Agreement # 6NU38OT000297-02-01 Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation's Health between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC. CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance (accessibility) on private websites.

Site created by Fusani Applications