Influenza A and Influenza B, colloquially known as seasonal flu or influenza, are groups of enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses that affect about 8% of the population across the U.S. annually. Seasonal flu is a respiratory infection that can lead to a range of symptoms that vary in severity, and may include a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, and/or fever.
In the 2022-2023 season, seasonal flu caused an estimated 24-64 million illnesses, 290,000-620,000 hospitalizations, and 19,000-57,000 deaths (CDC, 2023). During the 2022-2023 season, the U.S. also observed a “tripledemic” of simultaneous influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 infections, increasing the need for improved disease monitoring.
In 2023, Biobot began testing wastewater samples for Influenza A/B. In addition to existing national monitoring strategies, Biobot’s ability to test for both Influenza A and B across localized jurisdictions creates another mechanism by which to track changing disease patterns across time and space. The changing viral landscape (simultaneous influenza, RSV, SARS-CoV-2, and norovirus infections) underscores how WBE can improve informatics for public health, since wastewater data catches and distinguishes between these infections.