BACKGROUND: Influenza is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Following the 2009 pandemic, there was widened interest in studying influenza burden in all regions. However, since data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remain limited, we aimed to contribute to the understanding of influenza burden in Lebanon.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review extending over a period of 8 seasons from Jan 1st, 2008 till June 30 th , 2016 at a tertiary care center in Beirut was performed. All cases confirmed to have influenza based on rapid antigen detection or/and polymerase chain reaction on a respiratory sample were included for analysis. Data on epidemiology, clinical presentation, complications, antiviral use and mortality were collected for analysis.
RESULTS: A total of 1829 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza were identified. Average annual positivity rate was 14% (positive tests over total requested). Both influenza A and B co-circulated in each season with predominance of influenza A. Influenza virus started circulating in December and peaked in January and February. The age group of 19-50 years accounted for the largest proportion of cases (22.5%) followed by the age group of 5-19 years (18%). Pneumonia was the most common complication reported in 33% of cases. Mortality reached 3.8%. The two extremes of age (<2 years and ≥ 65years) were associated with a more severe course of disease, hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, complications, and mortality rate. Of all the identified cases, 26% were hospitalized. Moderate-to-severe disease was more likely in influenza B cases but no difference in mortality was reported between the two types. Antivirals were prescribed in 68.8% and antibiotics in 41% of cases. There seemed to be an increasing trend in the number of diagnosed and hospitalized cases over the years of the study.
CONCLUSION: Patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza at our center had a high rate of hospitalization and mortality. A population based prospective surveillance study is needed to better estimate the burden of Influenza in Lebanon that would help formulate a policy on influenza control.