Severity of influenza-associated hospitalisations by influenza virus type and subtype in the USA, 2010-19: a repeated cross-sectional study

Background: Influenza burden varies across seasons, partly due to differences in circulating influenza virus types or subtypes. Using data from the US population-based surveillance system, Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET), we aimed to assess the severity of influenza-associated outcomes in individuals hospitalised with laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections during the 2010-11 to 2018-19 influenza seasons.

Methods: To evaluate the association between influenza virus type or subtype causing the infection (influenza A H3N2, A H1N1pdm09, and B viruses) and in-hospital severity outcomes (intensive care unit [ICU] admission, use of mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO], and death), we used FluSurv-NET to capture data for laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalisations from the 2010-11 to 2018-19 influenza seasons for individuals of all ages living in select counties in 13 US states. All individuals had to have an influenza virus test within 14 days before or during their hospital stay and an admission date between Oct 1 and April 30 of an influenza season. Exclusion criteria were individuals who did not have a complete chart review; cases from sites that contributed data for three or fewer seasons; hospital-onset cases; cases with unidentified influenza type; cases of multiple influenza virus type or subtype co-infection; or individuals younger than 6 months and ineligible for the influenza vaccine. Logistic regression models adjusted for influenza season, influenza vaccination status, age, and FluSurv-NET site compared odds of in-hospital severity by virus type or subtype. When missing, influenza A subtypes were imputed using chained equations of known subtypes by season.

Findings: Data for 122 941 individuals hospitalised with influenza were captured in FluSurv-NET from the 2010-11 to 2018-19 seasons; after exclusions were applied, 107 941 individuals remained and underwent influenza A virus imputation when missing A subtype (43·4%). After imputation, data for 104 969 remained and were included in the final analytic sample. Averaging across imputed datasets, 57·7% (weighted percentage) had influenza A H3N2, 24·6% had influenza A H1N1pdm09, and 17·7% had influenza B virus infections; 16·7% required ICU admission, 6·5% received mechanical ventilation or ECMO, and 3·0% died (95% CIs had a range of less than 0·1% and are not displayed). Individuals with A H1N1pdm09 had higher odds of in-hospital severe outcomes than those with A H3N2: adjusted odds ratios (ORs) for A H1N1pdm09 versus A H3N2 were 1·42 (95% CI 1·32-1·52) for ICU admission; 1·79 (1·60-2·00) for mechanical ventilation or ECMO use; and 1·25 (1·07-1·46) for death. The adjusted ORs for individuals infected with influenza B versus influenza A H3N2 were 1·06 (95% CI 1·01-1·12) for ICU admission, 1·14 (1·05-1·24) for mechanical ventilation or ECMO use, and 1·18 (1·07-1·31) for death.

Interpretation: Despite a higher burden of hospitalisations with influenza A H3N2, we found an increased likelihood of in-hospital severe outcomes in individuals hospitalised with influenza A H1N1pdm09 or influenza B virus. Thus, it is important for individuals to receive an annual influenza vaccine and for health-care providers to provide early antiviral treatment for patients with suspected influenza who are at increased risk of severe outcomes, not only when there is high influenza A H3N2 virus circulation but also when influenza A H1N1pdm09 and influenza B viruses are circulating.