Spatio-temporal analysis of flu-related drugs uptake in an online cohort in England

Daniela Perrotta, Richard Pebody, Dario Delle Vedove, Rossano Schifanella, Chinelo Obi, Daniela Paolotti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The effective monitoring and control of disease outbreaks and epidemics rely on accurate and timely data, including the number of disease cases as well as the amount of medicines needed to alleviate the burden of the disease in the general population. Official public health sources of information, despite being reliable and accurate, often fail to be delivered in a timely manner. On the other hand, participatory Web-based monitoring systems, which rely on the participation of self-selected volunteers, can help complement traditional public health practices and overcome these issues. In this study, we investigate the spatio-temporal patterns of flu-related drugs uptake in England, as measured by the Flusurvey platform, which is the largest crowd-sourced Web platform for the monitoring of influenza-like illness activity in United Kingdom. Flu-related drugs prescriptions reported by the National Institute of Health in England represent our ground truth. We retrospectively evaluate the performance of self-reported data collected by Flusurvey over the course of four influenza seasons, from 2014-2015 to 2017-2018. Our results show a high temporal correlation (ranging from 0.60 to 0.96) between the prescriptions data and the Flusurvey time series for antibiotics and cough medications. The spatial correlation between the two datasets is instead not statistically significant. In conclusion, Web-based monitoring systems such as Flusurvey, can capture the temporal patterns of flu-related drugs consumption in the general population and help deliver this information to public health authorities in a more timely fashion than traditional systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDPH 2019 - Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Digital Public Health
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781450372084
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019
Event9th International Conference on Digital Public Health, DPH 2019 - Marseille, France
Duration: 20 Nov 201923 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference9th International Conference on Digital Public Health, DPH 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all the Flusurvey users who contributed to this study. Daniela Paolotti and Daniela Perrotta acknowledge support from the Lagrange Project of the Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation (ISI Foundation) funded by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino (Fondazione CRT). Dario Delle Vedove has been partially supported by the project ?Countering Online hate speech through Effective on-line Monitoring? funded by Compagnia di San Paolo.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Copyright held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Drugs uptake
  • Flu
  • Influenza-like illness
  • Participatory surveillance
  • Prescriptions
  • Web-based surveillance


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