School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Getting a true picture of an influenza outbreak

Influenza outbreak image

Dr David Muscatello, a senior lecturer in infectious diseases at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant to improve the epidemiological risk assessment of influenza epidemics.

Seasonal and pandemic influenza, and now COVID-19, are persistent and unpredictable global threats. In New South Wales alone, an average of over 20,000 emergency department visits are estimated to be attributable to influenza each year.

While more and more data are routinely and administratively recorded from all levels of healthcare, many of these data sources remain unused or under-used for identifying and controlling influenza outbreaks and epidemics, and managing their impact on healthcare services.

Dr Muscatello aims to change this with his research by looking at new ways to use healthcare and death databases to monitor and assess influenza risk, severity, and health and healthcare burden in real time.

According to Dr Muscatello, current public health systems offer at best an incomplete picture of influenza's population and health service impact during an epidemic or pandemic.

"The new study will use general practice, ambulance, emergency department, hospitalisation, intensive care and mortality databases to form a comprehensive picture of the current status of influenza outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics as they evolve," Dr Muscatello says.

"This will provide a spectrum of intelligence that can be used to respond rapidly with risk categorisation, preparedness and public health protection and ultimately, reduce the impact of influenza as well as other emerging diseases like COVID-19," he says.

"There is worldwide demand for estimating the burden of influenza at all levels of severity, and this new study will provide important evidence for simultaneously integrating multiple levels of data on epidemic intelligence in Australia and beyond."

Dr Muscatello, who received $645,000 in funding, is among 22 UNSW researchers who have been awarded $30m in the highly competitive NHMRC Investigator and Medical Research Future Fund Priority Grants. Read more here.

Contact Name : 
David Muscatello