Text-Based Illness Monitoring for Detection of Novel Influenza A Virus Infections During an Influenza A (H3N2)v Virus Outbreak in Michigan, 2016: Surveillance and Survey.


During an outbreak of H3N2v virus infections among agricultural fair attendees, we deployed a text-illness monitoring (TIM) system to conduct active illness surveillance among households of youth who exhibited swine at fairs. We selected all fairs with suspected H3N2v virus infections. For fairs without suspected infections, we selected only those fairs that met predefined criteria. Eligible respondents were identified and recruited through email outreach and/or on-site meetings at fairs. During the fairs and for 10 days after selected fairs, enrolled households received daily, automated text-messages inquiring about illness; reports of illness were investigated by local health departments. To understand the feasibility and acceptability of the system, we monitored enrollment and trends in participation and distributed a Web-based survey to households of exhibitors from five fairs.

Using a text-message system, we monitored for illness among a large number of individuals and households and detected H3N2v virus infections through active surveillance. Text-based illness monitoring systems are useful for detecting novel influenza virus infections when active monitoring is necessary. Participant retention and testing of persons reporting illness are critical elements for system improvement.

Rapid reporting of human infections with novel influenza A viruses accelerates detection of viruses with pandemic potential and implementation of an effective public health response. After detection of human infections with influenza A (H3N2) variant (H3N2v) viruses associated with agricultural fairs during August 2016, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services worked with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify infections with variant influenza viruses using a text-based illness monitoring system.

Among an estimated 500 households with a member who exhibited swine at one of nine selected fairs, representatives of 87 (17.4%) households were enrolled, representing 392 household members. Among fairs that were ongoing when the TIM system was deployed, the number of respondents peaked at 54 on the third day of the fair and then steadily declined throughout the rest of the monitoring period; 19 out of 87 household representatives (22%) responded through the end of the 10-day monitoring period. We detected 2 H3N2v virus infections using the TIM system, which represents 17% (2/12) of all H3N2v virus infections detected during this outbreak in Michigan. Of the 70 survey respondents, 16 (23%) had participated in the TIM system. A total of 73% (11/15) participated because it was recommended by fair coordinators and 80% (12/15) said they would participate again.

To enhance detection of influenza infections using text-based monitoring and evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the system for use in future outbreaks of novel influenza viruses.

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