Abstract

The growth of digital communication technologies for public health is offering an unconventional means to engage the general public in monitoring community health. Here we present Influenzanet, a participatory system for the syndromic surveillance of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Europe. Through standardized online surveys, the system collects detailed profile information and self-reported symptoms volunteered by participants resident in the Influenzanet countries. Established in 2009, it now includes 10 countries representing more than half of the 28 member states of the European Union population. The experience of 7 influenza seasons illustrates how Influenzanet has become an adjunct to existing ILI surveillance networks, offering coherence across countries, inclusion of nonmedically attended ILI, flexibility in case definition, and facilitating individual-level epidemiological analyses generally not possible in standard systems. Having the sensitivity to timely detect substantial changes in population health, Influenzanet has the potential to become a viable instrument for a wide variety of applications in public health preparedness and control.

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