Background: The sentinel surveillance system in Japan provides estimates of nationwide influenza incidence. Although prefectural influenza incidences can be estimated using data from the current surveillance system, such estimates may be imprecise. Methods: We calculated the numbers of sentinel medical institutions (SMIs) needed in the surveillance system to estimate influenza incidences in prefectures, under the assumption that the standard error rates in 75% of influenza epidemic cases are less than 10%. Epidemic cases observed in 47 prefectures during the 2007/2008, 2008/2009, and 2009/2010 seasons, respectively, were used. Results: The present total number of SMIs was 6669. With respect to current standards, the increases required in prefectures ranged from 0 to 59, and the total increase required in the number of SMIs was 1668. Conclusions: We used sentinel surveillance data for Japan to calculate the number of SMIs required to estimate influenza incidence in each prefecture.
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