UK public urged to take part in online Flusurvey to map
5 December 2012
The annual UK Flusurvey aims to collect data from men and
women of all ages around the country, in order to map trends as seasonal
flu takes hold, enabling researchers from the London School of Hygiene &
Tropical Medicine to analyse how the virus spreads and who it affects.
Anyone can take part in Flusurvey and it only takes a couple of minutes
The online questionnaire allows people to report their symptoms
directly and the data is supplied to the Health Protection Agency’s
national surveillance programmes.
Results from previous years of the Flusurvey suggest men are less
likely than women to report flu-like illness. In fact, women had
about a 16% higher risk of reporting flu-like symptoms.
But in a bid to work out if “man flu” is real, researchers hope
to find out more about gender differences to determine if men are
more likely to have severe symptoms or if there is any evidence that
they make more of a fuss than women. They are also interested in
exploring if owning a cat or dog reduces the risk of reporting
flu-like symptoms and comparing flu levels in different age groups
Last year was one of the mildest flu years reported but despite
that about 30% of people in the United Kingdom and Europe reported
having some flu-like illness.
It is not possible to predict if and when seasonal flu will
affect people this year but the Flusurvey team is keen to encourage
people to sign up now to help find out. The more people who
participate the more information they will be able to collect to
increase understanding and help medics and health services prepare.
Traditional monitoring methods rely on data from GPs or hospitals.
The Flusurvey provides a unique insight because many people with
flu-like illness do not visit a doctor.
Other findings from 2011-12 included:
- Vaccination protected against flu - people who were not
vaccinated reported more than 10% more flu-like symptoms than
vaccinated people throughout Europe. This was in a year with
very little flu. In a year with normal amounts of flu, the
researchers would expect this figure to be much higher.
- Staying off the train or bus didn't stop you getting flu -
results suggested that people who regularly used public
transport were no more likely to develop flu-like illnesses than
people who did not use public transport.
- Having children was a risk factor for reporting flu-like
illness. People with children reported 14% more flu-like illness
compared with people who didn’t have children. The pattern of
people reporting flu-like illnesses was very similar in the UK
Dr Alma Adler, Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious
Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical
Medicine, who is running the UK Flusurvey project, said: “We are
really grateful to everyone who took part in the UK Flusurvey
previously and encourage them to come back again this year to help
this important citizen science project. We also appeal to newcomers
to join in.
“By spending a few minutes every week participants provide
crucial data for increasing our knowledge of flu, monitoring its
spread and developing methods to improve the handling of outbreaks
of the virus. Seasonal flu can be a serious illness, potentially
fatal in some cases, and we want to help the quest to keep people
The flu survey is at