Background Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) causes substantial mortality and morbidity worldwide. The country of Georgia conducts sentinel surveillance to monitor SARI activity and changes in its infectious etiology. This study characterizes the epidemiology of SARI in Georgia over the 2015/16 and 2016/17 influenza seasons, compares clinical presentations by etiology, and estimates influenza vaccine effectiveness using a test-negative design. Methods SARI cases were selected through alternate day systematic sampling between September 2015 and March 2017 at five sentinel surveillance inpatient sites. Nasopharyngeal swabs were tested for respiratory viruses and Mycoplasma pneumoniae using a multiplex diagnostic system. We present SARI case frequencies by demographic characteristics, co-morbidities, and clinical presentation, and used logistic regression to estimate influenza A vaccine effectiveness. Results 1,624 patients with SARI were identified. More cases occurred in February (28.7%; 466/ 1624) than other months. Influenza was the dominant pathogen in December-February, respiratory syncytial virus in March-May, and rhinovirus in June-November. Serious clinical symptoms including breathing difficulties, ICU hospitalization, and artificial ventilation were common among influenza A and human metapneumovirus cases. For influenza A/H3, a protective association between vaccination and disease status was observed when cases with unknown vaccination status were combined with those who were unvaccinated (OR: 0.53, 95% CI: 0.30, 0.97). Conclusions Multi-pathogen diagnostic testing through Georgia’s sentinel surveillance provides useful information on etiology, seasonality, and demographic associations. Influenza A and B were associated with more severe outcomes, although the majority of the population studied was unvaccinated. Findings from sentinel surveillance can assist in prevention planning.
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