SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

Flusurvey partners with U.K. schools to track influenza virus in children

The United Kingdom's Flusurvery program announced on Wednesday that it will partner with the British Science Association during the 2013-14 flu season to monitor the role children play in the spread of the influenza virus.

The U.K. Flusurvey, currently in its fifth year, collects data from men, women and children in England pertaining to their encounters with the influenza virus. This data is used to map emerging trends of the seasonal flu to best estimate who may be at risk of infection. This data is sent on a weekly basis to the national flu surveillance program of Public Health England.

"Catching flu can be serious, potentially fatal in some cases," Dr. Alma Adler, who runs the Flusurvey project, said. "If participants can spare just a couple of minutes each week providing us with crucial data, we will increase our knowledge of flu and develop new methods to improve the handling of outbreaks of the virus."

The survey has made important discoveries about the influenza virus in previous years, including the expulsion of the myths that riding public transportation increases risk of influenza and the existence of "man flu." This year, Flusurvey will monitor the effectiveness of childhood vaccination programs and study the effect of diet and exercise on the risk of infection.

"This year we're keen to find out more about children because they are the 'key spreaders' of flu and the group who reported the most flu-like illness in last year's survey," Adler said. "With the (National Health Service) beginning to roll out childhood flu vaccinations this year, it's an exciting time to see how this might change the way the virus spread."