Influenza (or “flu”) is a serious public health problem that causes an estimated 3 to 5 million cases and 250,000 deaths worldwide every year. Annual epidemics can seriously affect all age groups, but the risk of dying is highest among the very young, elderly, and chronically ill.

Seasonal and pandemic epidemics can take a toll on populations worldwide. But developing countries—which often experience more serious disease and have limited health care—bear the brunt of the burden.

The use of antiviral drugs can help to reduce the severity of disease. However, complications of influenza may require different treatment and urgent medical attention, resulting in considerable social and economic costs—from lost days of work to health care expenses.

In order to determine priority public health interventions—including anti-viral stockpiles, vaccination programs, and public awareness campaigns—governments need information on disease burden. Yet, data describing the seasonality and epidemiology of influenza are scarce in most developing countries.

To address this issue, AMP conducted a comprehensive literature review and analysis of influenza epidemiology in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. The review, which includes literature dating back to 1980, highlights some key aspects of influenza epidemiology. The main finding is that data needed to inform public health decisions is missing from current publications, necessitating more epidemiological studies.