Rapid mapping of the spatial and temporal intensity of influenza

  • David J. MuscatelloEmail author
  • Robert Neil F. Leong
  • Robin M. Turner
  • Anthony T. Newall
Original Article


Surveillance of influenza epidemics is a priority for risk assessment and pandemic preparedness, yet representation of their spatiotemporal intensity remains limited. Using the epidemic of influenza type A in 2016 in Australia, we demonstrated a simple but statistically sound adaptive method of mapping epidemic evolution over space and time. Weekly counts of persons with laboratory confirmed influenza type A infections in Australia in 2016 were analysed by official national statistical region. Weekly standardised epidemic intensity was represented by a standard score (z-score) calculated using the standard deviation of below-median counts in the previous 52 weeks. A geographic information system (GIS) was used to present the epidemic progression. There were 79,628 notifications of influenza A infections included. Of these, 79,218 (99.5%) were allocated to a geographical area. The GIS maps indicated areas of elevated epidemic intensity across Australia by week and area that were consistent with the observed start, peak and decline of the epidemic when compared with counts aggregated at the state and territory level. This simple, adaptable approach could improve local level epidemic intelligence in a variety of settings and for other diseases. It may also facilitate increased understanding of geographic epidemic dynamics.


Epidemics Pandemics Influenza, human Geographic information systems Australia Laboratories Risk assessment Epidemic intelligence 



National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System data on influenza were provided by the Office of Health Protection, Department of Health, on behalf of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.


This research was supported by the 2017 Small Scale Research Support Scheme of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Health and Community MedicineUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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