A sneeze is often the first sign of the flu coming on. The flu and other respiratory illnesses have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of New Zealand families. It can pose a serious health risk and be fatal to young children and the elderly.
Every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gathers information about circulating influenza virus strains, which is used in the selection of flu virus strains for the next season’s vaccines. The WHO Global Influenza Programme coordinates the collection and analysis of this influenza surveillance data from around the world, according to common standards.
The Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS) project was established five years ago to understand how the influenza virus spreads, mutates, and interacts with other harmful viruses in New Zealand.
Principal Investigator, Dr Sue Huang from ESR led the multi-agency collaboration with the University of Auckland, Auckland District Health Board, Counties Manukau District Health Board, the University of Otago, and two United States agencies: St Jude’s Research Hospital; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
ESR was selected by the CDC for the $10m project over all other applicants. This was due, in-part, to a ‘smart’ study design that was able to address many questions, and a strong research team drawing skills, knowledge and experience from multiple institutions.
The SHIVERS project has collected a huge library of epidemiological data on influenza. This provides insight into influenza’s impact in the community: prevalence across different demographic groups, co-occurrence with other illnesses, outcomes for patients in general and for people who have higher risk factors.