National Influenza Centre (NIC)2018-11-02T14:47:34+00:00

National Influenza Centre (NIC)

About Us

The National Influenza Centre (NIC) is a unit under the division of the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) within the Department of Preventive and Promotive Health in the Ministry of Health. It was established in the year 2014 and has been designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the NIC in the country.

Key Functions

  • The NIC receives and process flu samples from 6 selected county referral hospitals (Kakamega, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyeri, Marsabit, Kakuma and Kenyatta National Hospital).
  • The laboratory monitors the trends of influenza viruses in the country and circulating strains or outbreak and responds to it.
  • The laboratory detects any emerging or re-emerging strains of flu virus for early response and control.
  • The laboratory plays a key role in public research that informs decision making in the Ministry of Health
  • Provides in-country laboratory leadership in WHO’s global influenza surveillance and response system
  • Provide technical support to national flu vaccination program

Work Flow


NIC laboratory consists of four sections:

  • Sample Reception/ Extraction section- where samples are received and logged in. Extraction of viral nucleic material (RNA) is done. This is can be done manually or using a kingfisher machine. Extracted RNA is stored here before analysis.
  • Clean PCR Section- Where master mix preparation is done and loaded into PCR plates
  • Amplification section – This is done using real-time 7500 fast PCR machine to determine the presence of the flu virus. Subtyping of the positive flu samples is done
  • Dirty Cell Culture- Where viral culture is done using MDCK cells to check for the presence of the cytopathic effects. Infection of cells is done here
  • Clean Cell room- Where splitting and maintenance of uninfected cells is done.
  • Sample Archiving Section where all the samples that have been processed, isolates and samples awaiting shipment to WHO reference laboratories are stored.

Classification of the Virus

  • The Flu Virus is an RNA virus and belongs to the class orthomyxoviridae. There are different types of Influenza Viruses but the ones infecting man are influenza A and B. Influenza A viruses are further classified based on their surface proteins hemagglutinins (H) and neuraminidase (N). The common types for Flu A include H1N1, pandemic H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H5N1.
  • Flu B strains include Yamagata and Victoria


Samples collected from suspected cases including nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swabs, tracheal swabs, bronchial wash and nasal washings.

Tests Done

Real time PCR for Flu A and B to identify the positives. For those positive for Flu A, sub typing is done using PCR real time to confirm and identify the subtypes. Cell culture is done for the positive samples for further confirmation.

Data/Our trends

Since its inception, NIC has processed 3,104 samples and around 310 samples were positive for both Flu A and B. Positivity rate of 10%.

Influenza trends are monitored weekly for one year for all the sentinel sites as shown in the graph and the map below.

Sentinel sites with the workload and the number positives for the year.

Working Hours

The laboratory is operational weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm except on public holidays.  During outbreaks, the laboratory is open for the entire period.

Test Menu

Type of test Sample type TAT
PCR Nasopharyngeal/ oropharyngeal swabs 3 days
PCR subtyping Nasopharyngeal/ oropharyngeal swabs 2 days
Cell culture Nasopharyngeal/ oropharyngeal Swabs  6 days

Achievements/ Milestones

  • NIC laboratory has undergone successful WHO assessment to be designated as a country NIC and can upload data directly to Flunet, WHO reporting site.
  • The Laboratory has participated in WHO global External Quality Assurance for both PCR and cell culture and passed.
  • The laboratory has been able to share the isolates with WHO CC for vaccine production
  • Participation in suspected flu outbreaks in Nakuru, Nanyuki and Djibouti

Role of the laboratory in the devolved system

The laboratory supports the counties in trainings and during outbreak investigations

Future Plans

  • The laboratory plans to incorporate other respiratory viruses in their test menu, this includes the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona virus
  • To increase the number of sentinel sites