Gripenet: an internet-based system to monitor influenza-like illness uniformly across Europe.
van Noort SP., Muehlen M., Rebelo de Andrade H., Koppeschaar C., Lima Lourenço JM., Gomes MGM.
Gripenet has been monitoring the activity of influenza-like-illness (ILI) with the aid of volunteers via the internet in the Netherlands and Belgium since 2003 and in Portugal since 2005. In contrast with the traditional system of sentinel networks of mainly primary care physicians coordinated by the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS), Gripenet obtains its data directly from the population. Any resident of the three countries can participate in Gripenet by completing an application form on the appropriate websites (http://www.griepmeting.nl for the Netherlands and Belgium, http://www.gripenet.pt for Portugal), which contains various medical, geographic and behavioural questions. Participants report weekly on the website any symptoms they have experienced since their last visit. ILI incidence is determined on the basis of a uniform case definition. In the 2006/2007 season, 19,623 persons participated in Gripenet in the Netherlands, 7,025 in Belgium and 3,118 in Portugal. The rise, peak and decline of ILI activity occurred at similar times according to Gripenet and EISS. However, ILI attack rates in the Netherlands (6.6%), Belgium (6.1%) and Portugal (5.6%) were remarkably more similar in Gripenet than in EISS (0.8%, 3.9%, and 0.6% respectively). Monitoring ILI activity with the direct participation of volunteers provides similar incidence curves compared to the traditional system coordinated by EISS. Whereas EISS provides an established system whose data is validated by virology tests, Gripenet is a fast and flexible monitoring system whose uniformity allows for direct comparison of ILI rates between countries. A current objective of Gripenet is to engage more European countries.