Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease responsible for annual seasonal epidemics in temperate climates. An understanding of how influenza spreads geographically and temporally within regions could result in improved public health prevention programs. The purpose of this study was to summarize the spatial and temporal spread of influenza using data obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Health's influenza surveillance system.
We evaluated the spatial and temporal patterns of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in Pennsylvania, United States from six influenza seasons (2003-2009). Using a test of spatial autocorrelation, local clusters of elevated risk were identified in the South Central region of the state. Multivariable logistic regression indicated that lower monthly precipitation levels during the influenza season (OR = 0.52, 95% CI: 0.28, 0.94), fewer residents over age 64 (OR = 0.27, 95% CI: 0.10, 0.73) and fewer residents with more than a high school education (OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.61, 0.95) were significantly associated with membership in this cluster. In addition, time series analysis revealed a temporal lag in the peak timing of the influenza B epidemic compared to the influenza A epidemic.
These findings illustrate a distinct spatial cluster of cases in the South Central region of Pennsylvania. Further examination of the regional transmission dynamics within these clusters may be useful in planning public health influenza prevention programs.