Hygienic Laboratory Influenza Surveillance Testing:

Influenza surveillance serves the following purposes:

For the 2013-2014 season, SHL and the Iowa Department of Public Health request the following specimens to be submitted for testing:

All Sites: Confirmation of rapid antigen test positive specimens until one test is confirmed by RT- PCR
Hospitals: Specimens from rapid antigen test positive hospitalized patients with Influenza-Like Illness (ILI)
ILINet Sentinel Providers: Submit specimens on patients with ILI per IDPH guidelines

Preferred specimen types are a nasopharyngeal swab or a combined nasal plus throat swab (2 swabs in one transport medium tube)

Facilities that perform rapid tests are requested to submit positive specimens for confirmation, until one specimen is confirmed. During times of low influenza prevalence, rapid tests have a poor Positive Predictive Value. Confirmation with a more sensitive and specific test at SHL can help to interpret rapid test performance and indicate when the results are more reliable. For more information see the CDC's report “Guidance for Clinicians on the Use of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests

Information for Healthcare Providers:

Information on how to collect and submit specimens to SHL

If you wish to submit a question, contact us.

Influenza Information: Seasonal, 2009 H1N1 pdm (pandemic H1N1, Novel H1N1), and variant viruses

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It is spread in seasonal epidemics, usually during winter months, although the actual start and end of the flu season is difficult to predict. Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Each year in the United States, 5 to 20 percent of the population becomes ill. Approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and approximately 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. Some individuals, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at a higher risk for serious flu complications.

Vaccination, frequent hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes are the best mechanisms to prevent illness and to lessen the spread of disease. The influenza virus is known to mutate, which is the reason that every year a new vaccination is required.

The 2009-2010 influenza season was unusual because of the emergence of a new 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus (previously called "novel H1N1" or "swine flu") that caused the first influenza pandemic (global epidemic of disease) in more than 40 years. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic because the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain occurred in multiple countries around the world and involved widespread human-to-human transmission. The pandemic classification does not reflect the severity of the disease, but is a geographic designation.

As variant forms of the influenza virus continue to arise, public health organizations engage in surveillance activities to detect these new viruses and determine if they match the current vaccine, have acquired resistance to anti-viral medications or if they have mutated to cause more severe disease or more rapid spread.

Information on the disease, including how it is spread, prevention, vaccines, treatment and related topics can be found at both the CDC and the IDPH websites.

Where Does the Right Size Influenza Roadmap Lead Us? (PDF)

Iowa’s influenza surveillance program was compared to the Draft Influenza Virologic Surveillance Right Size Roadmap (DIVSRSR) to determine how current practice contrasted with the roadmap. The Iowa surveillance program has grown through the years, not as a result of strategic planning, but as a consequence of available resources. To perform the analysis, the State Hygienic Laboratory combined efforts with the Iowa Department of Public Health to gather data, analyze outcomes, model performance and determine the opportunities and barriers to changes that could be made to closely align the existing influenza program to the right size roadmap. The decisions from this exercise are far reaching for local and state public health in Iowa, and also impact national and global surveillance activities from the perspective of Iowa's contribution to these surveillance systems.

Jeff Benfer MB(ASCP)CM Supervisor of Molecular Biology / Virology
Email: Phone: 319-335-4276 Fax: 319-335-4555

Last updated September 26, 2013