Air pollutants and health outcomes: Assessment of confounding by influenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • TQ Thach
  • CM Wong
  • KP Chan
  • YK Chau
  • CQ Ou
  • L Yang
  • JSM Peiris
  • TH Lam
  • AJ Hedley


We assessed confounding of associations between short-term effects of air pollution and health outcomes by influenza using Hong Kong mortality and hospitalization data for 1996-2002. Three measures of influenza were defined: (i) intensity: weekly proportion of positive influenza viruses, (ii) epidemic: weekly number of positive influenza viruses >= 4% of the annual number for >= 2 consecutive weeks, and (iii) predominance: an epidemic period with co-circulation of respiratory syncytial virus = 2 consecutive weeks. We examined effects of influenza on associations between nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter 0.1% between unadjusted and adjusted excess risks (ER%). Without adjustment, pollutants were associated with positive ER% for all health outcomes except asthma and stroke hospitalization with SO2 and stroke hospitalization with O-3. Following adjustment, changes in ER% for all pollutants were 0.1% for mortality from stroke with NO2 and SO2, cardiac or heart disease with NO2, PM10 and O-3, lower respiratory infections with NO2 and O-3 and mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with all pollutants. Changes >0.1% were seen for acute respiratory disease hospitalization with NO2, SO2 and O-3 and acute lower respiratory infections hospitalization with PM10. Generally, influenza does not confound the observed associations of air pollutants with all natural causes mortality and cardiovascular hospitalization, but for some pollutants and subgroups of cardiorespiratory mortality and respiratory hospitalization there was evidence to suggest confounding by influenza. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1437-1442
Number of pages6
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


  • Influenza activity, Mortality, Confounding, Hong Kong, Hospitalization