This national study aims to answer the following questions.
How many people are really affected? For seasonal influenza surveillance data represents the “tip of an iceberg” as many people do not consult – large scale community studies are needed to assess how many people are affected by the pandemic.
What is the range of severity? For seasonal influenza we know that many people have very mild or even asymptomatic infection – we do not know if this is the case for the new strain.
What are the typical symptoms? We need information on the symptom profile of confirmed and unconfirmed cases to help with clinical diagnosis.
Do antivirals do more harm than good in mild cases? Controversy remains about the extensive use of antivirals for the new strain. Systematic data needs to be collected including timing of antiviral administration and symptom range, severity and duration in treated and untreated individuals.
How effective and safe is the pandemic vaccine? The pandemic vaccine will be licensed on the basis of it’s immunogenicity and extensive experience of safety of influenza vaccines manufactured using the same processes. However there is a need for large scale post- marketing observational studies to establish it’s clinical effectiveness and full safety profile.
What is the immunological basis of protection from influenza? The pandemic provides a unique opportunity to study the immune basis of protection from influenza in a population with minimal or zero antibody-based protection. This will inform the development of more effective vaccines both tor seasonal influenza and to protect against future pandemics.
How easily does the new strain of influenza spread? It is important to understand the extent of spread in households but also in other settings such as in crowds or on public transport.