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Impact of influenza across 27 public emergency departments in Australia: a 5-year descriptive study
  1. Justin Boyle1,
  2. Julia Crilly2,3,
  3. Gerben Keijzers4,5,
  4. Marianne Wallis3,
  5. James Lind4,
  6. Ross Sparks6,
  7. Louise Ryan6
  1. 1CSIRO Information and Communication Technologies Centre, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2Statewide Emergency Department Clinical Network, Queensland Health, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
  4. 4Gold Coast Hospital Emergency Department, Queensland Health, Gold Coast, Australia
  5. 5Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Queensland, Australia
  6. 6CSIRO Mathematics Informatics and Statistics, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Justin Boyle, CSIRO Information and Communication Technologies Centre, Level 5, UQ Health Sciences Building Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, 4029, Queensland, Australia; justin.boyle{at}


Objective To describe the incidence, characteristics and outcomes of patients with influenza-like symptoms presenting to 27 public hospital emergency departments (EDs) in Queensland, Australia.

Methods A descriptive retrospective study covering 5 years (2005–9) of historical data from 27 hospital EDs was undertaken. State-wide hospital ED Information System data were analysed. Annual comparisons between influenza and non-influenza cases were made across the southern hemisphere influenza season (June–September) each year.

Results Influenza-related presentations increased significantly over the 5 years from 3.4% in 2005 to 9.4% in 2009, reflecting a 276% relative increase. Differences over time regarding characteristics of patients with influenza-like symptoms, based on the influenza season, occurred for admission rate (decreased over time from 28% in 2005 to 18% in 2009), length of stay (decreased over time from a median of 210 min in 2005 to 164 min in 2009) and access block (increased over time from 33% to 41%). Also, every year there was a significantly (p<0.001) higher percentage of access block in the influenza cohort than in the non-influenza cohort.

Conclusions Although there was a large increase over time in influenza-related ED presentations, most patients were discharged home from the ED. Special consideration of health service delivery management (eg, establishing an ‘influenza clinic border protection and public rollout of vaccination, beginning with those most at risk’) for this group of patients is warranted but requires evaluation. These results may inform planning for service delivery models during the influenza season.

  • Emergency department management
  • major incidents
  • guidelines
  • diagnosis
  • cardiac care
  • acute coronary syndrome
  • emergency care systems
  • hospitalisations
  • statistics
  • research
  • epidemiology
  • respiratory
  • pneumonia/infections

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  • Funding The work was supported by funding provided by Australian State and Federal governments in relation to employment of the authors.

  • Competing interests JB, RS and LR have support from CSIRO; JC, GK, MW and JL have support from Queensland Health; and MW has support from Griffith University for the submitted work. The support relates to employment and there was no role of the supporting sources in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, writing of the article, or decision to submit the final manuscript for publication. There are no financial or professional relationships which pose a competing interest.

  • Ethics approval The Queensland Health Central Office human research ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Study data are unable to be shared.