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International case definitions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are commonly used for influenza surveillance. We evaluated clinical factors associated with the laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of influenza and the performance of these influenza case definitions by using a complete dataset of 14,994 patients with acute respiratory infection (ARI) from whom a specimen was collected between August 2009 and April 2014 by the Groupes Régionaux d’Observation de la Grippe (GROG), a French national influenza surveillance network. Cough and fever ≥ 39 °C most accurately predicted an influenza infection in all age groups. Several other symptoms were associated with an increased risk of influenza (headache, weakness, myalgia, coryza) or decreased risk (adenopathy, pharyngitis, shortness of breath, otitis/otalgia, bronchitis/ bronchiolitis), but not throughout all age groups. The WHO case definition for influenza-like illness (ILI) had the highest specificity with 21.4%, while the ECDC ILI case definition had the highest sensitivity with 96.1%. The diagnosis among children younger than 5 years remains challenging. The study compared the performance of clinical influenza definitions based on outpatient surveillance and will contribute to improving the comparability of data shared at international level.


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