Surveillance for severe influenza and COVID-19 in patients admitted to sentinel Australian hospitals in 2020: the Influenza Complications Alert Network (FluCAN)

Husna Begum, Dominic E. Dwyer, Mark Holmes, Louis Irving, Graham Simpson, Sanjaya Senenayake, Tony Korman, N. Deborah Friedman, Louise Cooley, Peter Wark, Simon Bowler, Jen Kok, John Upham, Daniel M. Fatovich, Grant Waterer, Kristine Macartney, Christopher C. Blyth, Nigel Crawford, Jim Buttery, Helen S. MarshallJulia E. Clark, Joshua R. Francis, Tom Kotsimbos, Paul Kelly, Allen Cheng

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Introduction: Influenza is a common cause of acute respiratory infection, and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an acute respiratory infection that emerged as a pandemic worldwide before the start of the 2020 Australian influenza season. This report summarises the epidemiology of hospitalisations with laboratory-confirmed influenza and COVID-19 during the 2020 influenza season in a sentinel surveillance system. Methods: The Influenza Complications Alert Network (FluCAN) is a sentinel hospital-based surveillance program that operates at sites in all jurisdictions in Australia. Influenza and COVID-19 cases were defined as patients hospitalised at sentinel hospitals and confirmed by nucleic acid detection. Results: There were 448 patients with COVID-19 admitted between 16 March and 31 December 2020, and only 20 patients with influenza admitted between 1 April and 30 November 2020, to one of 22 FluCAN hospitals. Of the COVID-19 cases, 173 (39%) were > 65 years of age, 36 (8%) were children (< 16 years), 6 (1%) were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 4 (1%) were pregnant and 289 (65%) had chronic comorbidities. COVID-19 hospital admissions peaked between weeks 13 and 15 (first wave) nationally, and again between weeks 31 and 35 (Victoria), with most admissions represented by those above 40 years of age. Discussion: There was an unusually low number of hospital admissions with laboratory-confirmed influenza in this season, compared to recent seasons. This is likely to be due to effective public health interventions and international border closures as a result of a rise in COVID-19 respiratory infections and associated hospitalisations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Number of pages20
JournalCommunicable Diseases Intelligence
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • coronavirus
  • Influenza
  • influenza vaccines
  • public health surveillance
  • vaccination coverage

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