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Recent data on influenza C virus indicate a possible higher clinical impact in specified patient populations than previously thought.


We aimed to investigate influenza C virus circulation in Germany.


A total of 1,588 samples from 0 to 4 year-old children presenting as outpatients with influenza-like illness (ILI) or acute respiratory infection were analysed retrospectively. The samples represented a subset of all samples from the German national surveillance system for influenza in this age group in 2012–14. The presence of influenza C virus was investigated by real-time PCR. For positive samples, information on symptoms as well as other respiratory virus co-infections was considered. Retrieved influenza C viral sequences were phylogenetically characterised.


Influenza C viral RNA was detected in 20 (1.3% of) samples, including 16 during the 2012/13 season. The majority (18/20) of influenza C-positive patients had ILI according to the European Union definition, one patient had pneumonia. Viruses belonged to the C/Sao Paulo and C/Kanagawa lineages. Most (11/20) samples were co-infected with other respiratory viruses.


Our data are the first on influenza C virus circulation in Germany and notably from a European national surveillance system. The low detection frequency and the identified virus variants confirm earlier observations outside a surveillance system. More virus detections during the 2012/13 season indicate a variable circulation intensity in the different years studied. Influenza C virus can be considered for ILI patients. Future studies addressing its clinical impact, especially in patients with severe disease are needed.


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