Caroline van Gemert, Emma S McBryde, Isabel Bergeri, Rachel Sacks-Davis, Hassan Vally, Tim Spelman, Brett Sutton, Margaret Hellard. Description of social contacts among student cases of pandemic influenza during the containment phase, Melbourne, Australia, 2009.Western Pac Surveill Response J. 2018 Sep;9(5). doi:10.5365/wpsar.2018.9.5.003
Introduction: Students comprised the majority of early cases of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in Melbourne, Australia. Students and school settings were targeted for public health interventions following the emergence of pH1N1. This study was conducted to describe changes in social contacts among the earliest confirmed student cases of pH1N1 in Melbourne, Australia, to inform future pandemic control policy and explore transmission model assumptions.
Methods: A retrospective cross-sectional behavioural study of student cases with laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 between 28 April and 3 June 2009 was conducted in 2009. Demographics, symptom onset dates and detailed information on regular and additional extracurricular activities were collected. Summary measures for activities were calculated, including median group size and median number of close contacts and attendance during the students’ exposure and infectious periods or during school closures. A multivariable model was used to assess associations between rates of participation in extracurricular activities and both school closures and students’ infectious periods.
Results: Among 162 eligible cases, 99 students participated. Students reported social contact in both curricular and extra-curricular activities. Group size and total number of close contacts varied. While participation in activities decreased during the students’ infectious periods and during school closures, social contact was common during periods when isolation was advised and during school closures.
Discussion: This study demonstrates the potential central role of young people in pandemic disease transmission given the level of non-adherence to prevention and control measures. These finding have public health implications for both informing modelling estimates of future pandemics and targeting prevention and control strategies to young people.