The Impact of Pandemic Influenza H1N1 on Health-Related Quality of Life: A Prospective Population-Based Study

van Hoek, AJ; Underwood, A; Jit, M; Miller, E; Edmunds, WJ; (2011) The Impact of Pandemic Influenza H1N1 on Health-Related Quality of Life: A Prospective Population-Based Study. PLoS One, 6 (3). ISSN 1932-6203 DOI:

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Background: While the H1N1v influenza pandemic in 2009 was clinically mild, with a low case-fatality rate, the overall disease burden measured in quality-adjusted life years (QALY) lost has not been estimated. Such a measure would allow comparison with other diseases and assessment of the cost-effectiveness of pandemic control measures. Methods and Findings: Cases of H1N1v confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and PCR negative cases with similar influenza-like illness (ILI controls) in 7 regions of England were sent two questionnaires, one within a week of symptom onset and one two weeks later, requesting information on duration of illness, work loss and antiviral use together with EQ-5D questionnaires. Results were compared with those for seasonal influenza from a systematic literature review. A total QALY loss for the 2009 pandemic in England was calculated based on the estimated total clinical cases and reported deaths. A total of 655 questionnaires were sent and 296 (45%) returned. Symptoms and average illness duration were similar between confirmed cases and ILI controls (8.8 days and 8.7 days respectively). Days off work were greater for cases than ILI controls (7.3 and 4.9 days respectively, p = 0.003). The quality-adjusted life days lost was 2.92 for confirmed cases and 2.74 for ILI controls, with a reduction in QALY loss after prompt use of antivirals in confirmed cases. The overall QALY loss in the pandemic was estimated at 28,126 QALYs (22,267 discounted) of which 40% was due to deaths (24% with discounting). Conclusion: Given the global public health significance of influenza, it is remarkable that no previous prospective study of the QALY loss of influenza using standardised and well validated methods has been performed. Although the QALY loss was minor for individual patients, the estimated total burden of influenza over the pandemic was substantial when compared to other infectious diseases.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
PubMed ID: 21399678
Web of Science ID: 287933300007


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