News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
December 20, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160
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Weekly Survey Tracks Influenza-like Illness Activity
Department Posts Results on its Website Every Friday

TRENTON - The Department of Health and Senior Services, in conjunction with local health departments, has begun surveying selected schools, nursing homes and hospitals on a weekly basis to determine the level of influenza-like illness activity occurring within the state. Weekly statistical summaries are posted on the department's website at www.state.nj.us/health/fluinfo/.

For the week of December 11, 2000, 162 schools, 61 nursing homes and 51 hospitals were polled. The overall student absenteeism rate was 5.95%, up slightly from 5.67% the week before. A total of 1.93% of nursing home residents and 6.38% of emergency room patients reported flu-like symptoms, down from last week's results of 2.46% and 7.79%, respectively.

This new, active surveillance system will provide a clearer picture of influenza and influenza-like illness activity and trends. Survey information will supplement the passive system the department has employed for monitoring these illnesses in past winters. Through the passive system, schools and nursing homes are asked to report activity only when 15% of the student or resident population is absent or develops flu-like symptoms.

Throughout this flu season, nurses and administrative staff from selected schools, nursing homes and hospitals throughout New Jersey will report to their local health department the number of students absent or the number of residents and patients ill with influenza-like illness on Tuesday of each week. The information is then forwarded to the department, tabulated and reported via the web on Friday.

The institutions surveyed have volunteered to participate in this enhanced system. A minimum of four schools and nursing homes per county will be polled each week.

Information posted on the website includes a description of surveillance activities, a weekly update of statewide statistics, and line graphs tracking activity throughout the New Jersey and in the northeast, northwest and southern sections of the state. County-specific data will be added to the site in the coming weeks.

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