Dynamics of Influenza Seasonality at Sub-Regional Levels in India and Implications for Vaccination Timing

Citation: Chadha MS, Potdar VA, Saha S, Koul PA, Broor S, Dar L, et al. (2015) Dynamics of Influenza Seasonality at Sub-Regional Levels in India and Implications for Vaccination Timing. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0124122. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124122
Published: May 4, 2015

Abstract
Background: Influenza surveillance is an important tool to identify emerging/reemerging strains, and defining seasonality. We describe the distinct patterns of circulating strains of the virus in different areas in India from 2009 to 2013.
Methods: Patients in ten cities presenting with influenza like illness in out-patient departments of dispensaries/hospitals and hospitalized patients with severe acute respiratory infections were enrolled. Nasopharangeal swabs were tested for influenza viruses by real-time RT-PCR, and subtyping; antigenic and genetic analysis were carried out using standard assays.
Results: Of the 44,127 ILI/SARI cases, 6,193 (14.0%) were positive for influenza virus. Peaks of influenza were observed during July-September coinciding with monsoon in cities Delhi and Lucknow (north), Pune (west), Allaphuza (southwest), Nagpur (central), Kolkata (east) and Dibrugarh (northeast), whereas Chennai and Vellore (southeast) revealed peaks in October-November, coinciding with the monsoon months in these cities. In Srinagar (Northern most city at 34°N latitude) influenza circulation peaked in January-March in winter months. The patterns of circulating strains varied over the years: whereas A/H1N1pdm09 and type B co-circulated in 2009 and 2010, H3N2 was the predominant circulating strain in 2011, followed by circulation of A/H1N1pdm09 and influenza B in 2012 and return of A/H3N2 in 2013. Antigenic analysis revealed that most circulating viruses were close to vaccine selected viral strains.
Conclusions: Our data shows that India, though physically located in northern hemisphere, has distinct seasonality that might be related to latitude and environmental factors. While cities with temperate seasonality will benefit from vaccination in September-October, cities with peaks in the monsoon season in July-September will benefit from vaccination in April-May. Continued surveillance is critical to understand regional differences in influenza seasonality at regional and sub-regional level, especially in countries with large latitude span.

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