The Seattle Flu Study: a multi-arm community-based prospective study protocol for assessing influenza prevalence, transmission, and genomic epidemiology

Chu HY, Boeckh M, Englund JA, Famulare M, Lutz BR, Nickerson DA, Rieder MJ, Lea M Starita, Adler A, Brandstetter E, Frazar CD, Han PD, Gularti RK, Hadfield J, Jackson ML, Kiavand A, Kimball LE, Lacombe K, Logue J, Lyon V, Newman KL, Sibley TR, Zigman Suschsland ML, Wolf C, Shendure J, Bedford T. 2020. medRxiv: 2020.03.02.20029595.

Abstract

Introduction. Influenza epidemics and pandemics cause significant morbidity and mortality. An effective response to a potential pandemic requires the infrastructure to rapidly detect, characterize, and potentially contain new and emerging influenza strains at a population level. The objective of this study is to use data gathered simultaneously from community and hospital sites to develop a model of how influenza enters and spreads in a population.

Methods and Analysis. Starting in the 2018-19 season, we have been enrolling individuals with acute respiratory illness from community sites throughout the Seattle metropolitan area, including clinics, childcare facilities, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, workplaces, college campuses, and homeless shelters. At these sites, we collect clinical data and mid-nasal swabs from individuals with at least two acute respiratory symptoms. Additionally, we collect residual nasal swabs and data from individuals who seek care for respiratory symptoms at four regional hospitals. Samples are tested using a multiplex molecular assay, and influenza whole genome sequencing is performed for samples with influenza detected. Geospatial mapping and computational modeling platforms are in development to characterize the regional spread of influenza and other respiratory pathogens.

Ethics and Dissemination. The study was approved by the University of Washington's Institutional Review Board. Results will be disseminated through talks at conferences, peer-reviewed publications, and on the study website (seattleflu.org).