Since the early 1990s, Oxford-RCGP RSC network practices have volunteered to take part in yearly influenza virology surveillance, in collaboration with UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) formerly (Public Health England). These practices collect nasopharyngeal samples from patients clinically suspected of having influenza. Results are then linked to pseudonymised clinical data. Its primary role is to confirm cases of influenza, but also to look at the impact of other diseases, to characterise more vulnerable populations, and to support in the evaluation of vaccine effectiveness. Most interest is currently on how age, gender, ethnicity, household size, and population density link to rates of infection.
Since 2020, this has expanded to include year-round testing for COVID-19, flu and other respiratory illnesses. A serological surveillance arm has also been rolled-out, which contributes important and timely data on background population immunity to COVID-19, and vaccine effectiveness.
To monitor the spread of respiratory viruses (including influenza, COVID-19, RSV) and measure the effectiveness of COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations through the winter season.
From March 2022 onwards, we have broadened the swabbing criteria. It now includes acute respiratory infection (ARI). Practices should be on the lookout for any suspected cases of influenza-like illness (ILI), ARI, or suspected COVID-19.
ARI includes lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) – including coryza, or bronchitis/bronchiolitis (if under 5 years old).
To assess background population immunity to COVID-19 and flu.
Promoting at Practice
We warmly invite practices to promote surveillance activities to patients at the practice level. If you are willing to put up a flyer, or add a research banner to your practice webpage, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org