With an influenza pandemic seemingly imminent, we constructed a model simulating the spread of influenza within the community, in order to test the impact of various interventions.
The model includes an individual level, in which the risk of influenza virus infection and the dynamics of viral shedding are simulated according to age, treatment, and vaccination status; and a community level, in which meetings between individuals are simulated on randomly generated graphs. We used data on real pandemics to calibrate some parameters of the model. The reference scenario assumes no vaccination, no use of antiviral drugs, and no preexisting herd immunity. We explored the impact of interventions such as vaccination, treatment/prophylaxis with neuraminidase inhibitors, quarantine, and closure of schools or workplaces.
In the reference scenario, 57% of realizations lead to an explosive outbreak, lasting a mean of 82 days (standard deviation (SD) 12 days) and affecting 46.8% of the population on average. Interventions aimed at reducing the number of meetings, combined with measures reducing individual transmissibility, would be partly effective: coverage of 70% of affected households, with treatment of the index patient, prophylaxis of household contacts, and confinement to home of all household members, would reduce the probability of an outbreak by 52%, and the remaining outbreaks would be limited to 17% of the population (range 0.8%–25%). Reactive vaccination of 70% of the susceptible population would significantly reduce the frequency, size, and mean duration of outbreaks, but the benefit would depend markedly on the interval between identification of the first case and the beginning of mass vaccination. The epidemic would affect 4% of the population if vaccination started immediately, 17% if there was a 14-day delay, and 36% if there was a 28-day delay. Closing schools when the number of infections in the community exceeded 50 would be very effective, limiting the size of outbreaks to 10% of the population (range 0.9%–22%).
This flexible tool can help to determine the interventions most likely to contain an influenza pandemic. These results support the stockpiling of antiviral drugs and accelerated vaccine development.