A scientific study suggests that the number of infected individuals and deaths from influenza during the first year of a pandemic could be substantially reduced by a combination of voluntary household-based quarantine and isolation of actively infected individuals in a location outside the household. This would be the case even if only half of the population complied with such measures.
Joseph Wu and colleagues (from the University of Hong Kong) developed a mathematical model to simulate the course of pandemic influenza in a typical city population and now report their results in the international medical journal PLoS Medicine. Their goal was to evaluate voluntary methods to reduce person-to-person transmission of influenza in the likely scenario that complete control cannot be achieved by mass vaccination and antiviral treatment alone.
Based on an influenza-associated mortality rate of 1.05% among symptomatic cases (based on the population excess mortality rate estimated for New York City in the 1918-1919 pandemic) the magnitude of the predicted benefit of these interventions--a reduction from 49% to 27% in the proportion of the population infected showing symptoms during the first year of the pandemic--would correspond to a reduction in the number of deaths by about 16,000 in a city the size of Hong Kong (6.8 million people).
As the study's authors point out, many countries are considering household-based interventions as part of their pandemic preparedness plans. This study should help to estimate the benefits of such interventions and the resources required to implement them.
Citation: Wu JT, Riley S, Fraser C, Leung GM (2006) Reducing the impact of the next influenza pandemic using household-based public health interventions. PLoS Med 3(9): e361
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