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We aimed to assess the epidemiology and spatiotemporal patterns of influenza in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region and evaluate the validity of partitioning the Region into five influenza transmission zones (ITZs) as proposed by the WHO. We used the FluNet database and included over 650,000 influenza cases from 2000 to 2015. We analysed the data by country and season (from July to the following June). We calculated the median proportion of cases caused by each virus type in a season, compared the timing of the primary peak between countries and used a range of cluster analysis methods to assess the degree of overlap between the WHO-defined and data-driven ITZs. Influenza A and B caused, respectively, a median of 83% and 17% cases in a season. There was a significant west-to-east and non-significant (p = 0.10) south-to-north gradient in the timing of influenza activity. Typically, influenza peaked in February and March; influenza A earlier than influenza B. Most countries in the WHO European Region would fit into two ITZs: ‘Western Europe’ and ‘Eastern Europe’; countries bordering Asia may be better placed into extra-European ITZs. Our findings have implications for the presentation of surveillance data and prevention and control measures in this large WHO Region.


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