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1.  Early Pandemic Influenza (2009 H1N1) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: A Clinical Virological and Epidemiological Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000277.
Rogier van Doorn and colleagues analyze the initial outbreak, attempts at containment, and establishment of community transmission of pandemic H1N1 influenza in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Background
To date, little is known about the initial spread and response to the 2009 pandemic of novel influenza A (“2009 H1N1”) in tropical countries. Here, we analyse the early progression of the epidemic from 26 May 2009 until the establishment of community transmission in the second half of July 2009 in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. In addition, we present detailed systematic viral clearance data on 292 isolated and treated patients and the first three cases of selection of resistant virus during treatment in Vietnam.
Methods and Findings
Data sources included all available health reports from the Ministry of Health and relevant health authorities as well as clinical and laboratory data from the first confirmed cases isolated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in HCMC. Extensive reverse transcription (RT)-PCR diagnostics on serial samples, viral culture, neuraminidase-inhibition testing, and sequencing were performed on a subset of 2009 H1N1 confirmed cases. Virological (PCR status, shedding) and epidemiological (incidence, isolation, discharge) data were combined to reconstruct the initial outbreak and the establishment of community transmission. From 27 April to 24 July 2009, approximately 760,000 passengers who entered HCMC on international flights were screened at the airport by a body temperature scan and symptom questionnaire. Approximately 0.15% of incoming passengers were intercepted, 200 of whom tested positive for 2009 H1N1 by RT-PCR. An additional 121 out of 169 nontravelers tested positive after self-reporting or contact tracing. These 321 patients spent 79% of their PCR-positive days in isolation; 60% of PCR-positive days were spent treated and in isolation. Influenza-like illness was noted in 61% of patients and no patients experienced pneumonia or severe outcomes. Viral clearance times were similar among patient groups with differing time intervals from illness onset to treatment, with estimated median clearance times between 2.6 and 2.8 d post-treatment for illness-to-treatment intervals of 1–4 d, and 2.0 d (95% confidence interval 1.5–2.5) when treatment was started on the first day of illness.
Conclusions
The patients described here represent a cross-section of infected individuals that were identified by temperature screening and symptom questionnaires at the airport, as well as mildly symptomatic to moderately ill patients who self-reported to hospitals. Data are observational and, although they are suggestive, it is not possible to be certain whether the containment efforts delayed community transmission in Vietnam. Viral clearance data assessed by RT-PCR showed a rapid therapeutic response to oseltamivir.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and about half a million people die as a result. These yearly seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that the immune response produced by infection with one year's virus provides only partial protection against the next year's virus. Sometimes, however, a very different influenza virus emerges to which people have virtually no immunity. Such viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) and can kill millions of people. Consequently, when the first case of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (2009 H1N1, swine flu) occurred in March 2009 in Mexico, alarm bells rang. National and international public health agencies quickly issued advice about how the public could help to control the spread of the virus and, as the virus spread, some countries banned flights from affected regions and instigated screening for influenza-like illness at airports. However, despite everyone's efforts, the virus spread rapidly and on June 11, 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, little is known about the spread of and response to 2009 H1N1 in tropical countries. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the early progression of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the treatment of infected patients. On April 27, 2009, when WHO announced that human-to-human transmission of 2009 H1N1 was occurring, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health mandated airport body temperature scans and symptom questionnaire screening of travelers arriving in Vietnam's international airports. Suspected cases were immediately transferred to in-hospital isolation, screened for virus using a sensitive test called PCR, and treated with the anti-influenza drug oseltamivir if positive. The first case of 2009 H1N1 infection in Vietnam was reported on May 31, 2009 in a student who had returned from the US on May 26, 2009, and, despite these efforts to contain the infection, by the second half of July the virus was circulating in Ho Chi Minh City (community transmission).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used reports from the Ministry of Health and relevant health authorities and clinical and laboratory data for people infected with 2009 H1N1 and isolated in hospital to reconstruct the initial outbreak and the establishment of community transmission in Ho Chi Minh City. Between April 27 and July 24 2009, three-quarters of a million passengers arriving in the city on international flights were screened at the airport. 200 passenger tested positive for 2009 H1N1 as did 121 nontravelers who were identified during this period after self-reporting illness or through contact tracing. The infected individuals spent 79% of the days when they tested positive for 2009 H1N1 by PCR (days when they were infectious) in isolation; 60% of their PCR-positive days were spent in isolation and treatment. Importantly, travelers and nontravelers spent 10% and 42.2%, respectively, of their potentially infectious time in the community. None of the patients became severely ill but 61% experienced an influenza-like illness. Finally, the average time from starting treatment to clearance of the virus was between 2.6 and 2.8 days for patients who began treatment 1 to 4 days after becoming ill; for those who started treatment on the first day of illness, the average virus clearance time was 2.0 days.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, although limited by missing data, suggest that the strict containment measures introduced early in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Ho Chi Minh City may have reduced the circulation of infected people in the community. This reduction in circulation might have delayed the onset of community transmission, suggest the researchers, but because the study was observational, this possibility cannot be proven. However, importantly, these findings show that the containment measures were unable to prevent the eventual establishment of pandemic influenza in Vietnam, presumably because many imported cases were not detected by airport screening. Finally, these findings suggest that in Vietnam, as in other countries, 2009 H1N1 causes a mild disease and that this disease responds quickly to treatment with oseltamivir whenever treatment is started in relation to the onset of illness.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000277.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on H1N1 influenza and how to prevent its spread
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides information on H1N1, avian, and pandemic influenza
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza and has detailed information on H1N1 influenza (in several languages); the WHO Representative Office in Vietnam provides an overview of the current 2009 H1N1 situation in Vietnam
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on H1N1 influenza
Wikipedia has a timeline of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000277
PMCID: PMC2872648  PMID: 20502525
2.  Social Contacts and Mixing Patterns Relevant to the Spread of Infectious Diseases 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e74.
Background
Mathematical modelling of infectious diseases transmitted by the respiratory or close-contact route (e.g., pandemic influenza) is increasingly being used to determine the impact of possible interventions. Although mixing patterns are known to be crucial determinants for model outcome, researchers often rely on a priori contact assumptions with little or no empirical basis. We conducted a population-based prospective survey of mixing patterns in eight European countries using a common paper-diary methodology.
Methods and Findings
7,290 participants recorded characteristics of 97,904 contacts with different individuals during one day, including age, sex, location, duration, frequency, and occurrence of physical contact. We found that mixing patterns and contact characteristics were remarkably similar across different European countries. Contact patterns were highly assortative with age: schoolchildren and young adults in particular tended to mix with people of the same age. Contacts lasting at least one hour or occurring on a daily basis mostly involved physical contact, while short duration and infrequent contacts tended to be nonphysical. Contacts at home, school, or leisure were more likely to be physical than contacts at the workplace or while travelling. Preliminary modelling indicates that 5- to 19-year-olds are expected to suffer the highest incidence during the initial epidemic phase of an emerging infection transmitted through social contacts measured here when the population is completely susceptible.
Conclusions
To our knowledge, our study provides the first large-scale quantitative approach to contact patterns relevant for infections transmitted by the respiratory or close-contact route, and the results should lead to improved parameterisation of mathematical models used to design control strategies.
Surveying 7,290 participants in eight European countries, Joël Mossong and colleagues determine patterns of person-to-person contact relevant to controlling pathogens spread by respiratory or close-contact routes.
Editors' Summary
Background
To understand and predict the impact of infectious disease, researchers often develop mathematical models. These computer simulations of hypothetical scenarios help policymakers and others to anticipate possible patterns and consequences of the emergence of diseases, and to develop interventions to curb disease spread. Whether to prepare for an outbreak of infectious disease or to control an existing outbreak, models can help researchers and policy makers decide how to intervene. For example, they may decide to develop or stockpile vaccines or antibiotics, fund vaccination or screening programs, or mount health promotion campaigns to help citizens minimize their exposure to the infectious agent (e.g., handwashing, travel restrictions, or school closures).
Respiratory infections, including the common cold, flu, and pneumonia, are some of the most prevalent infections in the world. Much work has gone into modeling how many people would be affected by respiratory diseases under various conditions and what can be done to limit the consequences.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mathematical models have tended to use contact rates (the number of other people that a person encounters per day) as one of their main elements in predicting the outcomes of epidemics. In the past, contact rates were not based on direct observations, but were assumed to follow a certain pattern and calibrated against other indirect data sources such as serological or case notification data. This study aimed to estimate contact rates directly by asking people who they have met during the course of one day. This allowed the researchers to study in more detail different patterns of contacts, such as those between different groups of people (such as age groups) and in different social settings. This is particularly important for respiratory diseases, which are spread through the air and by close contact with an infected individual or surface.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers wanted to examine the social contacts that people have in order to better understand how respiratory infections might spread. They recruited 7,290 people from eight European countries (Belgium, Germany, Finland, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Poland) to participate in their study. They asked the participants to fill out a diary that documented their physical and nonphysical contacts for a single day. Physical contacts included interactions such as a kiss or a handshake. Nonphysical contacts were situations such as a two-way conversation without skin-to-skin contact. Participants detailed the location and duration of each contact. Diaries also contained basic demographic information about the participant and the contact.
They found that these 7,290 participants had 97,904 contacts during the study, which averaged to 13.4 contacts per day per person. There was a great deal of diversity among the contacts, which challenges the idea that contact rates alone provide a complete picture of transmission dynamics. The researchers identified varied types of contacts, duration of contacts, and mixing patterns. For example, children had more contacts than adults, and those living in larger households had more contacts. Weekdays resulted in more daily contacts than Sundays. More intense contacts (of longer duration or more frequent) tended to be physical. Approximately 70% of contacts made on a daily basis lasted longer than an hour, whereas three-quarters of contacts with people who were not previously known lasted less than 15 minutes. While mixing patterns were very similar across the eight countries, people of the same age tended to mix with each other.
Analyzing these contact patterns and applying mathematical and statistical techniques, the researchers created a model of the initial phase of a hypothetical respiratory infection epidemic. This model suggests that 5- to 19-year-olds will suffer the highest burden of respiratory infection during an initial spread. The high incidence of infection among school-aged children in the model results from these children having a large number of contacts compared to other groups and tending to make contacts within their own age group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This work provides insight about contacts that can be supplemental to traditional measurements such as contact rates, which are usually generated from household or workplace size and transportation statistics. Incorporating contact patterns into the model allowed for a deeper understanding of the transmission patterns of a hypothetical respiratory epidemic among a susceptible population. Understanding the patterning of social contacts—between and within groups, and in different social settings—shows how diverse contacts and mixing between individuals really are. Physical exposure to an infectious agent, the authors conclude, is best modeled by taking into account the social network of close contacts and its patterning.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050074..
Wikipedia has technical discussions on the assumptions used in mathematical models of epidemiology (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Plans for pandemic influenza are explained for the Government of Canada, the United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050074
PMCID: PMC2270306  PMID: 18366252
3.  A Comparative Analysis of Influenza Vaccination Programs 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e387.
Background
The threat of avian influenza and the 2004–2005 influenza vaccine supply shortage in the United States have sparked a debate about optimal vaccination strategies to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality caused by the influenza virus.
Methods and Findings
We present a comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies: mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations. Applying the methods of contact network epidemiology to a model of disease transmission in a large urban population, we assume that vaccine supplies are limited and then evaluate the efficacy of these strategies across a wide range of viral transmission rates and for two different age-specific mortality distributions.
We find that the optimal strategy depends critically on the viral transmission level (reproductive rate) of the virus: morbidity-based strategies outperform mortality-based strategies for moderately transmissible strains, while the reverse is true for highly transmissible strains. These results hold for a range of mortality rates reported for prior influenza epidemics and pandemics. Furthermore, we show that vaccination delays and multiple introductions of disease into the community have a more detrimental impact on morbidity-based strategies than mortality-based strategies.
Conclusions
If public health officials have reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate and the frequency of new introductions into the community prior to an outbreak, then these methods can guide the design of optimal vaccination priorities. When such information is unreliable or not available, as is often the case, this study recommends mortality-based vaccination priorities.
A comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies, mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways that is transmitted in airborne droplets released by coughing or sneezing—is a serious public health threat. Most people recover quickly from influenza, but some individuals, especially infants, old people, and individuals with chronic health problems, can develop pneumonia and die. In the US, seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of flu cause an estimated 36,000 excess deaths annually. And now there are fears that avian influenza might start a human pandemic—a global epidemic that could kill millions. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza occur because flu viruses continually change the viral proteins (antigens) to which the immune system responds. “Antigenic drift”—small changes in these proteins—means that an immune system response that combats flu one year may not provide complete protection the next winter. “Antigenic shift”—large antigen changes—can cause pandemics because communities have no immunity to the changed virus. Annual vaccination with vaccines based on the currently circulating viruses controls seasonal flu epidemics; to control a pandemic, vaccines based on the antigenically altered virus would have to be quickly developed.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most countries target vaccination efforts towards the people most at risk of dying from influenza, and to health-care workers who are likely come into contact with flu patients. But is this the best way to reduce the burden of illness (morbidity) and death (mortality) caused by influenza, particularly at the start of a pandemic, when vaccine would be limited? Old people and infants are much less likely to catch and spread influenza than school children, students, and employed adults, so could vaccination of these sections of the population—instead of those most at risk of death—be the best way to contain influenza outbreaks? In this study, the researchers used an analytical method called “contact network epidemiology” to compare two types of vaccination strategies: the currently favored mortality-based strategy, which targets high-risk individuals, and a morbidity-based strategy, which targets those segments of the community in which most influenza cases occur.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Most models of disease transmission assume that each member of a community is equally likely to infect every other member. But a baby is unlikely to transmit flu to, for example, an unrelated, housebound elderly person. Contact network epidemiology takes the likely relationships between people into account when modeling disease transmission. Using information from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on household size, age distribution, and occupations, and other factors such as school sizes, the researchers built a model population of a quarter of a million interconnected people. They then investigated how different vaccination strategies controlled the spread of influenza in this population. The optimal strategy depended on the level of viral transmissibility—the likelihood that an infectious person transmits influenza to a susceptible individual with whom he or she has contact. For moderately transmissible flu viruses, a morbidity-based vaccination strategy, in which the people most likely to catch the flu are vaccinated, was more effective at containing seasonal and pandemic outbreaks than a mortality-based strategy, in which the people most likely to die if they caught the flu are vaccinated. For highly transmissible strains, this situation was reversed. The level of transmissibility at which this reversal occurred depended on several factors, including whether vaccination was delayed and how many times influenza was introduced into the community.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers tested their models by checking that they could replicate real influenza epidemics and pandemics, but, as with all mathematical models, they included many assumptions about influenza in their calculations, which may affect their results. Also, because the contact network used data from Vancouver, their results might not be applicable to other cities, or to nonurban areas. Nevertheless, their findings have important public health implications. When there are reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate, and it is known how often influenza is being introduced into a community, contact network models could help public health officials choose between morbidity- and mortality-based vaccination strategies. When the viral transmission rate is unreliable or unavailable (for example, at the start of a pandemic), the best policy would be the currently preferred strategy of mortality-based vaccination. More generally, the use of contact network models should improve estimates of how infectious diseases spread through populations and indicate the best ways to control human epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts on vaccination
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases feature on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
World Health Organization fact sheet on influenza, with links to information on vaccination
UK Health Protection Agency information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
MedlinePlus entry on influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387
PMCID: PMC1584413  PMID: 17020406
4.  Reducing the Impact of the Next Influenza Pandemic Using Household-Based Public Health Interventions 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e361.
Background
The outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza in domestic poultry and wild birds has caused global concern over the possible evolution of a novel human strain [1]. If such a strain emerges, and is not controlled at source [2,3], a pandemic is likely to result. Health policy in most countries will then be focused on reducing morbidity and mortality.
Methods and Findings
We estimate the expected reduction in primary attack rates for different household-based interventions using a mathematical model of influenza transmission within and between households. We show that, for lower transmissibility strains [2,4], the combination of household-based quarantine, isolation of cases outside the household, and targeted prophylactic use of anti-virals will be highly effective and likely feasible across a range of plausible transmission scenarios. For example, for a basic reproductive number (the average number of people infected by a typically infectious individual in an otherwise susceptible population) of 1.8, assuming only 50% compliance, this combination could reduce the infection (symptomatic) attack rate from 74% (49%) to 40% (27%), requiring peak quarantine and isolation levels of 6.2% and 0.8% of the population, respectively, and an overall anti-viral stockpile of 3.9 doses per member of the population. Although contact tracing may be additionally effective, the resources required make it impractical in most scenarios.
Conclusions
National influenza pandemic preparedness plans currently focus on reducing the impact associated with a constant attack rate, rather than on reducing transmission. Our findings suggest that the additional benefits and resource requirements of household-based interventions in reducing average levels of transmission should also be considered, even when expected levels of compliance are only moderate.
Voluntary household-based quarantine and external isolation are likely to be effective in limiting the morbidity and mortality of an influenza pandemic, even if such a pandemic cannot be entirely prevented, and even if compliance with these interventions is moderate.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Naturally occurring variation in the influenza virus can lead both to localized annual epidemics and to less frequent global pandemics of catastrophic proportions. The most destructive of the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century, the so-called Spanish flu of 1918–1919, is estimated to have caused 20 million deaths. As evidenced by ongoing tracking efforts and news media coverage of H5N1 avian influenza, contemporary approaches to monitoring and communications can be expected to alert health officials and the general public of the emergence of new, potentially pandemic strains before they spread globally.
Why Was This Study Done?
In order to act most effectively on advance notice of an approaching influenza pandemic, public health workers need to know which available interventions are likely to be most effective. This study was done to estimate the effectiveness of specific preventive measures that communities might implement to reduce the impact of pandemic flu. In particular, the study evaluates methods to reduce person-to-person transmission of influenza, in the likely scenario that complete control cannot be achieved by mass vaccination and anti-viral treatment alone.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model—essentially a computer simulation—to simulate the course of pandemic influenza in a hypothetical population at risk for infection at home, through external peer networks such as schools and workplaces, and through general community transmission. Parameters such as the distribution of household sizes, the rate at which individuals develop symptoms from nonpandemic viruses, and the risk of infection within households were derived from demographic and epidemiologic data from Hong Kong, as well as empirical studies of influenza transmission. A model based on these parameters was then used to calculate the effects of interventions including voluntary household quarantine, voluntary individual isolation in a facility outside the home, and contact tracing (that is, asking infectious individuals to identify people whom they may have infected and then warning those people) on the spread of pandemic influenza through the population. The model also took into account the anti-viral treatment of exposed, asymptomatic household members and of individuals in isolation, and assumed that all intervention strategies were put into place before the arrival of individuals infected with the pandemic virus.
  Using this model, the authors predicted that even if only half of the population were to comply with public health interventions, the proportion infected during the first year of an influenza pandemic could be substantially reduced by a combination of household-based quarantine, isolation of actively infected individuals in a location outside the household, and targeted prophylactic treatment of exposed individuals with anti-viral drugs. Based on an influenza-associated mortality rate of 0.5% (as has been estimated for New York City in the 1918–1919 pandemic), the magnitude of the predicted benefit of these interventions is a reduction from 49% to 27% in the proportion of the population who become ill in the first year of the pandemic, which would correspond to 16,000 fewer deaths in a city the size of Hong Kong (6.8 million people). In the model, anti-viral treatment appeared to be about as effective as isolation when each was used in combination with household quarantine, but would require stockpiling 3.9 doses of anti-viral for each member of the population. Contact tracing was predicted to provide a modest additional benefit over quarantine and isolation, but also to increase considerably the proportion of the population in quarantine.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study predicts that voluntary household-based quarantine and external isolation can be effective in limiting the morbidity and mortality of an influenza pandemic, even if such a pandemic cannot be entirely prevented, and even if compliance with these interventions is far from uniform. These simulations can therefore inform preparedness plans in the absence of data from actual intervention trials, which would be impossible outside (and impractical within) the context of an actual pandemic. Like all mathematical models, however, the one presented in this study relies on a number of assumptions regarding the characteristics and circumstances of the situation that it is intended to represent. For example, the authors found that the efficacy of policies to reduce the rate of infection vary according to the ease with which a given virus spreads from person to person. Because this parameter (known as the basic reproductive ratio, R0) cannot be reliably predicted for a new viral strain based on past epidemics, the authors note that in an actual influenza pandemic rapid determinations of R0 in areas already involved would be necessary to finalize public health responses in threatened areas. Further, the implementation of the interventions that appear beneficial in this model would require devoting attention and resources to practical considerations, such as how to staff isolation centers and provide food and water to those in household quarantine. However accurate the scientific data and predictive models may be, their effectiveness can only be realized through well-coordinated local, as well as international, efforts.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030361.
• World Health Organization influenza pandemic preparedness page
• US Department of Health and Human Services avian and pandemic flu information site
• Pandemic influenza page from the Public Health Agency of Canada
• Emergency planning page on pandemic flu from the England Department of Health
• Wikipedia entry on pandemic influenza with links to individual country resources (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030361
PMCID: PMC1526768  PMID: 16881729
5.  Global Mortality Estimates for the 2009 Influenza Pandemic from the GLaMOR Project: A Modeling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001558.
Lone Simonsen and colleagues use a two-stage statistical modeling approach to estimate the global mortality burden of the 2009 influenza pandemic from mortality data obtained from multiple countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Assessing the mortality impact of the 2009 influenza A H1N1 virus (H1N1pdm09) is essential for optimizing public health responses to future pandemics. The World Health Organization reported 18,631 laboratory-confirmed pandemic deaths, but the total pandemic mortality burden was substantially higher. We estimated the 2009 pandemic mortality burden through statistical modeling of mortality data from multiple countries.
Methods and Findings
We obtained weekly virology and underlying cause-of-death mortality time series for 2005–2009 for 20 countries covering ∼35% of the world population. We applied a multivariate linear regression model to estimate pandemic respiratory mortality in each collaborating country. We then used these results plus ten country indicators in a multiple imputation model to project the mortality burden in all world countries. Between 123,000 and 203,000 pandemic respiratory deaths were estimated globally for the last 9 mo of 2009. The majority (62%–85%) were attributed to persons under 65 y of age. We observed a striking regional heterogeneity, with almost 20-fold higher mortality in some countries in the Americas than in Europe. The model attributed 148,000–249,000 respiratory deaths to influenza in an average pre-pandemic season, with only 19% in persons <65 y. Limitations include lack of representation of low-income countries among single-country estimates and an inability to study subsequent pandemic waves (2010–2012).
Conclusions
We estimate that 2009 global pandemic respiratory mortality was ∼10-fold higher than the World Health Organization's laboratory-confirmed mortality count. Although the pandemic mortality estimate was similar in magnitude to that of seasonal influenza, a marked shift toward mortality among persons <65 y of age occurred, so that many more life-years were lost. The burden varied greatly among countries, corroborating early reports of far greater pandemic severity in the Americas than in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. A collaborative network to collect and analyze mortality and hospitalization surveillance data is needed to rapidly establish the severity of future pandemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and hundreds of thousands of people (mainly elderly individuals) die as a result. These seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that the immune response produced by infection with one year's virus provides only partial protection against the next year's virus. Influenza viruses also occasionally emerge that are very different. Human populations have virtually no immunity to these new viruses, which can start global epidemics (pandemics) that kill millions of people. The most recent influenza pandemic, which was first recognized in Mexico in March 2009, was caused by the 2009 influenza A H1N1 pandemic (H1N1pdm09) virus. This virus spread rapidly, and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway. H1N1pdm09 caused a mild disease in most people it infected, but by the time WHO announced that the pandemic was over (10 August 2010), there had been 18,632 laboratory-confirmed deaths from H1N1pdm09.
Why Was This Study Done?
The modest number of laboratory-confirmed H1N1pdm09 deaths has caused commentators to wonder whether the public health response to H1N1pdm09 was excessive. However, as is the case with all influenza epidemics, the true mortality (death) burden from H1N1pdm09 is substantially higher than these figures indicate because only a minority of influenza-related deaths are definitively diagnosed by being confirmed in laboratory. Many influenza-related deaths result from secondary bacterial infections or from exacerbation of preexisting chronic conditions, and are not recorded as related to influenza infection. A more complete assessment of the impact of H1N1pdm09 on mortality is essential for the optimization of public health responses to future pandemics. In this modeling study (the Global Pandemic Mortality [GLaMOR] project), researchers use a two-stage statistical modeling approach to estimate the global mortality burden of the 2009 influenza pandemic from mortality data obtained from multiple countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained weekly virology data from the World Health Organization FluNet database and national influenza centers to identify influenza active periods, and obtained weekly national underlying cause-of-death time series for 2005–2009 from collaborators in more than 20 countries (35% of the world's population). They used a multivariate linear regression model to measure the numbers and rates of pandemic influenza respiratory deaths in each of these countries. Then, in the second stage of their analysis, they used a multiple imputation model that took into account country-specific geographical, economic, and health indicators to project the single-country estimates to all world countries. The researchers estimated that between 123,000 and 203,000 pandemic influenza respiratory deaths occurred globally from 1 April through 31 December 2009. Most of these deaths (62%–85%) occurred in people younger than 65 years old. There was a striking regional heterogeneity in deaths, with up to 20-fold higher mortality in Central and South American countries than in European countries. Finally, the model attributed 148,000–249,000 respiratory deaths to influenza in an average pre-pandemic season. Notably, only 19% of these deaths occurred in people younger than 65 years old.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that respiratory mortality from the 2009 influenza pandemic was about 10-fold higher than laboratory-confirmed mortality. The true total mortality burden is likely to be even higher because deaths that occurred late in the winter of 2009–2010 and in later pandemic waves were missed in this analysis, and only pandemic influenza deaths that were recorded as respiratory deaths were included. The lack of single-country estimates from low-income countries may also limit the accuracy of these findings. Importantly, although the researchers' estimates of mortality from H1N1pdm09 and from seasonal influenza were of similar magnitude, the shift towards mortality among younger people means that more life-years were lost during the 2009 influenza pandemic than during an average pre-pandemic influenza season. Although the methods developed by the GLaMOR project can be used to make robust and comparable mortality estimates in future influenza pandemics, the lack of timeliness of such estimates needs to be remedied. One potential remedy, suggest the researchers, would be to establish a collaborative network that analyzes timely hospitalization and/or mortality data provided by sentinel countries. Such a network should be able to provide the rapid and reliable data about the severity of pandemic threats that is needed to guide public health policy decisions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001558.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including archived information on H1N1pdm09
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal and pandemic influenza H1N1pdm09
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on the global response to H1N1pdm09, including a publication on the evolution of H1N1pdm09 (some information in several languages). Information on FluNet, a global tool for influenza surveillance, is also available
Public Health England provides information on pandemic influenza and archived information on H1N1pdm09
More information for patients about H1N1pdm09 is available through Choices, an information resource provided by the UK National Health Service
More information about the GLaMOR project is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001558
PMCID: PMC3841239  PMID: 24302890
6.  The Severity of Pandemic H1N1 Influenza in the United States, from April to July 2009: A Bayesian Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(12):e1000207.
Marc Lipsitch and colleagues use complementary data from two US cities, Milwaukee and New York City, to assess the severity of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza in the United States.
Background
Accurate measures of the severity of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza (pH1N1) are needed to assess the likely impact of an anticipated resurgence in the autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Severity has been difficult to measure because jurisdictions with large numbers of deaths and other severe outcomes have had too many cases to assess the total number with confidence. Also, detection of severe cases may be more likely, resulting in overestimation of the severity of an average case. We sought to estimate the probabilities that symptomatic infection would lead to hospitalization, ICU admission, and death by combining data from multiple sources.
Methods and Findings
We used complementary data from two US cities: Milwaukee attempted to identify cases of medically attended infection whether or not they required hospitalization, while New York City focused on the identification of hospitalizations, intensive care admission or mechanical ventilation (hereafter, ICU), and deaths. New York data were used to estimate numerators for ICU and death, and two sources of data—medically attended cases in Milwaukee or self-reported influenza-like illness (ILI) in New York—were used to estimate ratios of symptomatic cases to hospitalizations. Combining these data with estimates of the fraction detected for each level of severity, we estimated the proportion of symptomatic patients who died (symptomatic case-fatality ratio, sCFR), required ICU (sCIR), and required hospitalization (sCHR), overall and by age category. Evidence, prior information, and associated uncertainty were analyzed in a Bayesian evidence synthesis framework. Using medically attended cases and estimates of the proportion of symptomatic cases medically attended, we estimated an sCFR of 0.048% (95% credible interval [CI] 0.026%–0.096%), sCIR of 0.239% (0.134%–0.458%), and sCHR of 1.44% (0.83%–2.64%). Using self-reported ILI, we obtained estimates approximately 7–9× lower. sCFR and sCIR appear to be highest in persons aged 18 y and older, and lowest in children aged 5–17 y. sCHR appears to be lowest in persons aged 5–17; our data were too sparse to allow us to determine the group in which it was the highest.
Conclusions
These estimates suggest that an autumn–winter pandemic wave of pH1N1 with comparable severity per case could lead to a number of deaths in the range from considerably below that associated with seasonal influenza to slightly higher, but with the greatest impact in children aged 0–4 and adults 18–64. These estimates of impact depend on assumptions about total incidence of infection and would be larger if incidence of symptomatic infection were higher or shifted toward adults, if viral virulence increased, or if suboptimal treatment resulted from stress on the health care system; numbers would decrease if the total proportion of the population symptomatically infected were lower than assumed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and about half a million people die as a result. In the US alone, an average of 36,000 people are thought to die from influenza-related causes every year. These seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the virus mean that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Occasionally, influenza viruses emerge that are very different and to which human populations have virtually no immunity. These viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) that kill millions of people. Experts have been warning for some time that an influenza pandemic is long overdue and in, March 2009, the first cases of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic (H1N1) 2009 (pH1N1; swine flu) occurred in Mexico. The virus spread rapidly and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization declared that a global pandemic of pH1N1 influenza was underway. By the beginning of November 2009, more than 6,000 people had died from pH1N1 influenza.
Why Was This Study Done?
With the onset of autumn—drier weather and the return of children to school help the influenza virus to spread—pH1N1 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the Northern Hemisphere have greatly increased. Although public-health officials have been preparing for this resurgence of infection, they cannot be sure of its impact on human health without knowing more about the severity of pH1N1 infections. The severity of an infection can be expressed as a case-fatality ratio (CFR; the proportion of cases that result in death), as a case-hospitalization ratio (CHR; the proportion of cases that result in hospitalization), and as a case-intensive care ratio (CIR; the proportion of cases that require treatment in an intensive care unit). Because so many people have been infected with pH1N1 since it emerged, the numbers of cases and deaths caused by pH1N1 infection are not known accurately so these ratios cannot be easily calculated. In this study, the researchers estimate the severity of pH1N1 influenza in the US between April and July 2009 by combining data on pH1N1 infections from several sources using a statistical approach known as Bayesian evidence synthesis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By using data on medically attended and hospitalized cases of pH1N1 infection in Milwaukee and information from New York City on hospitalizations, intensive care use, and deaths, the researchers estimate that the proportion of US cases with symptoms that died (the sCFR) during summer 2009 was 0.048%. That is, about 1 in 2,000 people who had symptoms of pH1N1 infection died. The “credible interval” for this sCFR, the range of values between which the “true” sCFR is likely to lie, they report, is 0.026%–0.096% (between 1 in 4,000 and 1 in 1,000 deaths for every symptomatic case). About 1 in 400 symptomatic cases required treatment in intensive care, they estimate, and about 1 in 70 symptomatic cases required hospital admission. When the researchers used a different approach to estimate the total number of symptomatic cases—based on New Yorkers' self-reported incidence of influenza-like-illness from a telephone survey—their estimates of pH1N1 infection severity were 7- to 9-fold lower. Finally, they report that the sCFR and the sCIR were highest in people aged 18 or older and lowest in children aged 5–17 years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Many uncertainties (for example, imperfect detection and reporting) can affect estimates of influenza severity. Even so, the findings of this study suggest that an autumn–winter pandemic wave of pH1N1 will have a death toll only slightly higher than or considerably lower than that caused by seasonal influenza in an average year, provided pH1N1 continues to behave as it did during the summer. Similarly, the estimated burden on hospitals and intensive care facilities ranges from somewhat higher than in a normal influenza season to considerably lower. The findings of this study also suggest that, unlike seasonal influenza, which kills mainly elderly adults, a high proportion of deaths from pH1N1infection will occur in nonelderly adults, a shift in age distribution that has been seen in previous pandemics. With these estimates in hand and with continued close monitoring of the pandemic, public-health officials should now be in a better position to plan effective strategies to deal with the pH1N1 pandemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000207.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on pandemic H1N1 (2009) influenza
Flu.gov, a US government Web site, provides access to information on H1N1, avian and pandemic influenza
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza and has detailed information on pandemic H1N1 (2009) influenza (in several languages)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on pandemic H1N1 (2009) influenza
More information for patients about H1N1 influenza is available through Choices, an information resource provided by the UK National Health Service
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000207
PMCID: PMC2784967  PMID: 19997612
7.  Characterizing the Epidemiology of the 2009 Influenza A/H1N1 Pandemic in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000436.
Gerardo Chowell and colleagues address whether school closures and other social distancing strategies were successful in reducing pandemic flu transmission in Mexico by analyzing the age- and state-specific incidence of influenza morbidity and mortality in 32 Mexican states.
Background
Mexico's local and national authorities initiated an intense public health response during the early stages of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic. In this study we analyzed the epidemiological patterns of the pandemic during April–December 2009 in Mexico and evaluated the impact of nonmedical interventions, school cycles, and demographic factors on influenza transmission.
Methods and Findings
We used influenza surveillance data compiled by the Mexican Institute for Social Security, representing 40% of the population, to study patterns in influenza-like illness (ILIs) hospitalizations, deaths, and case-fatality rate by pandemic wave and geographical region. We also estimated the reproduction number (R) on the basis of the growth rate of daily cases, and used a transmission model to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation strategies initiated during the spring pandemic wave. A total of 117,626 ILI cases were identified during April–December 2009, of which 30.6% were tested for influenza, and 23.3% were positive for the influenza A/H1N1 pandemic virus. A three-wave pandemic profile was identified, with an initial wave in April–May (Mexico City area), a second wave in June–July (southeastern states), and a geographically widespread third wave in August–December. The median age of laboratory confirmed ILI cases was ∼18 years overall and increased to ∼31 years during autumn (p<0.0001). The case-fatality ratio among ILI cases was 1.2% overall, and highest (5.5%) among people over 60 years. The regional R estimates were 1.8–2.1, 1.6–1.9, and 1.2–1.3 for the spring, summer, and fall waves, respectively. We estimate that the 18-day period of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented in the greater Mexico City area was associated with a 29%–37% reduction in influenza transmission in spring 2009. In addition, an increase in R was observed in late May and early June in the southeast states, after mandatory school suspension resumed and before summer vacation started. State-specific fall pandemic waves began 2–5 weeks after school reopened for the fall term, coinciding with an age shift in influenza cases.
Conclusions
We documented three spatially heterogeneous waves of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic virus in Mexico, which were characterized by a relatively young age distribution of cases. Our study highlights the importance of school cycles on the transmission dynamics of this pandemic influenza strain and suggests that school closure and other mitigation measures could be useful to mitigate future influenza pandemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
From June 2009 to August 2010, the world was officially (according to specific World Health Organization [WHO] criteria—WHO phase 6 pandemic alert) in the grip of an Influenza A pandemic with a new strain of the H1N1 virus. The epidemic in Mexico, which had the second confirmed global case of H1N1 virus was first noted in early April 2009, when reports of respiratory hospitalizations and deaths among 62 young adults in Mexico alerted local health officials to the occurrence of atypical rates of respiratory illness. In line with its inter-institutional National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan, the Ministry of Health cancelled school attendance in the greater Mexico City area on April 24 and expanded these measures to the rest the country three days later. The Ministry of Health then implemented in Mexico City other “social distancing” strategies such as closing cinemas and restaurants and cancelling large public gatherings.
Why Was This Study Done?
School closures and other intense social distancing strategies can be very disruptive to the population, but as yet it is uncertain whether these measures were successful in reducing disease transmission. In addition, there have been no studies concentrating on recurrent pandemic waves in Mexico. So in this study the authors addressed these issues by analyzing the age- and state-specific incidence of influenza morbidity and mortality in 32 Mexican States and quantified the association between local influenza transmission rates, school cycles, and demographic factors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the epidemiological surveillance system of the Mexican Institute for Social Security—a Mexican health system that covers private sector workers and their families, a group representative of the general population, that comprises roughly 40% of the Mexican population (107 million individuals), with a network of 1,099 primary health care units and 259 hospitals nationwide. Then the researchers compiled state- and age-specific time series of incident influenza-like illness and H1N1 influenza cases by day of symptom onset to analyze the geographic dissemination patterns of the pandemic across Mexico and defined three temporally distinct pandemic waves in 2009: spring (April 1–May 20), summer (May 21–August 1), and fall (August 2–December 31). The researchers then applied a mathematical model of influenza transmission to daily case data to assess the effectiveness of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented during April 24–May 11, in reducing influenza transmission rates.
The Mexican Institute for Social Security reported a total of 117,626 people with influenza-like illness from April 1 to December 31, 2009, of which 36,044 were laboratory tested (30.6%) and 27,440 (23.3%) were confirmed with H1N1 influenza. During this period, 1,370 people with influenza-like illness died of which 585 (1.5 per 100,000) were confirmed to have H1N1 influenza. The median age of people with laboratory confirmed influenza like illness (H1N1) was 18 years overall but increased to 31 years during the autumn wave. The overall case-fatality ratio among people with influenza like illness was 1.2%, but highest (5.5%) among people over 60 years. The researchers found that the 18-day period of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented in the greater Mexico City area was associated with a substantial (29%–37%) reduction in influenza transmission in spring 2009 but increased in late May and early June in the southeast states, after mandatory school suspension resumed and before summer vacation started. State-specific pandemic waves began 2–5 weeks after school reopened for the fall term, coinciding with an age shift in influenza cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the age distribution of pandemic influenza morbidity was greater in younger age groups, while the risk of severe disease was skewed towards older age groups, and that there were substantial geographical variation in pandemic patterns across Mexico, in part related to population size. But most importantly, these findings support the effectiveness of early mitigation efforts including mandatory school closures and cancellation of large public gatherings, reinforcing the importance of school cycles in the transmission of pandemic influenza. This analysis increases understanding of the age and transmission patterns of the Mexican 2009 influenza pandemic at various geographic scales, which is crucial for designing more efficient public health interventions against future influenza pandemics.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000436.
The World Health Organization provides information about the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000436
PMCID: PMC3101203  PMID: 21629683
8.  Estimating Infection Attack Rates and Severity in Real Time during an Influenza Pandemic: Analysis of Serial Cross-Sectional Serologic Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(10):e1001103.
This study reports that using serological data coupled with clinical surveillance data can provide real-time estimates of the infection attack rates and severity in an emerging influenza pandemic.
Background
In an emerging influenza pandemic, estimating severity (the probability of a severe outcome, such as hospitalization, if infected) is a public health priority. As many influenza infections are subclinical, sero-surveillance is needed to allow reliable real-time estimates of infection attack rate (IAR) and severity.
Methods and Findings
We tested 14,766 sera collected during the first wave of the 2009 pandemic in Hong Kong using viral microneutralization. We estimated IAR and infection-hospitalization probability (IHP) from the serial cross-sectional serologic data and hospitalization data. Had our serologic data been available weekly in real time, we would have obtained reliable IHP estimates 1 wk after, 1–2 wk before, and 3 wk after epidemic peak for individuals aged 5–14 y, 15–29 y, and 30–59 y. The ratio of IAR to pre-existing seroprevalence, which decreased with age, was a major determinant for the timeliness of reliable estimates. If we began sero-surveillance 3 wk after community transmission was confirmed, with 150, 350, and 500 specimens per week for individuals aged 5–14 y, 15–19 y, and 20–29 y, respectively, we would have obtained reliable IHP estimates for these age groups 4 wk before the peak. For 30–59 y olds, even 800 specimens per week would not have generated reliable estimates until the peak because the ratio of IAR to pre-existing seroprevalence for this age group was low. The performance of serial cross-sectional sero-surveillance substantially deteriorates if test specificity is not near 100% or pre-existing seroprevalence is not near zero. These potential limitations could be mitigated by choosing a higher titer cutoff for seropositivity. If the epidemic doubling time is longer than 6 d, then serial cross-sectional sero-surveillance with 300 specimens per week would yield reliable estimates when IAR reaches around 6%–10%.
Conclusions
Serial cross-sectional serologic data together with clinical surveillance data can allow reliable real-time estimates of IAR and severity in an emerging pandemic. Sero-surveillance for pandemics should be considered.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and about half a million die as a result. These seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that the immune response produced by infection with one year's virus provides only partial protection against the next year's virus. Occasionally, however, a very different influenza virus emerges to which people have virtually no immunity. Such viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) and kill millions of people. The most recent influenza pandemic began in March 2009 in Mexico, when the first case of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (pdmH1N1) occurred. The virus spread rapidly despite strenuous efforts by national and international public health agencies to contain it, and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an influenza pandemic was underway. By the time WHO announced that the pandemic was over (10 August 2010), pdmH1N1 had killed more than 18,000 people.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early in the 2009 influenza pandemic, as in any emerging pandemic, reliable estimates of pdmH1N1's transmissibility (how easily it spreads between people) and severity (the proportion of infected people who needed hospital treatment) were urgently needed to help public health officials plan their response to the pandemic and advise the public about the threat to their health. Because infection with an influenza virus does not always make people ill, the only way to determine the true size and severity of an influenza outbreak is to monitor the occurrence of antibodies (proteins made by the immune system in response to infections) to the influenza virus in the population—so-called serologic surveillance. In this study, the researchers developed a method that uses serologic data to provide real-time estimates of the infection attack rate (IAR; the cumulative occurrence of new infections in a population) and the infection-hospitalization probability (IHP; the proportion of affected individuals that needs to be hospitalized) during an influenza pandemic.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers tested nearly 15,000 serum samples collected in Hong Kong during the first wave of the 2009 pandemic for antibodies to pdmH1N1 and then used a mathematical approach called convolution to estimate IAR and IHP from these serologic data and hospitalization data. They report that if the serological data had been available weekly in real time, they would have been able to obtain reliable estimates of IAR and IHP by one week after, one to two weeks before, and three weeks after the pandemic peak for 5–14 year olds, 15–29 year olds, and 30–59 year olds, respectively. If serologic surveillance had begun three weeks after confirmation of community transmission of pdmH1N1, sample sizes of 150, 350, and 500 specimens per week from 5–14 year olds, 15–19 year olds, and 20–29 year olds, respectively, would have been sufficient to obtain reliable IAR and IHP estimates four weeks before the pandemic peak. However, for 30–59 year olds, even 800 specimens per week would not have generated reliable estimates because of pre-existing antibodies to an H1N1 virus in this age group. Finally, computer simulations of future pandemics indicate that serologic surveillance with 300 serum specimens per week would yield reliable estimates of IAR and IHP as soon as the true IAR reached about 6%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that serologic data together with clinical surveillance data could be used to provide reliable real-time estimates of IARs and severity in an emerging influenza pandemic. Although the number of samples needed to provide accurate estimates of IAR and IHP in real life may vary somewhat from those reported here because of limitations in the design of this study, these findings nevertheless suggest that the level of testing capacity needed to provide real-time estimates of IAR and IHP during an emerging influenza pandemic should be logistically feasible for most developed countries. Moreover, collection of serologic surveillance data from any major city affected early in an epidemic could potentially provide information of global relevance for public health. Thus, the researchers conclude, serologic monitoring should be included in future plans for influenza pandemic preparedness and response and in planning for other pandemics.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001103.
A recent PLoS Medicine Research Article by Riley et al. provides further information on patterns of infection with the pdmH1N1 virus
The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection provides information on pandemic H1N1 influenza
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on H1N1 influenza
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal, pandemic, and H1N1 influenza
WHO provides information on seasonal influenza and has information on the global response to H1N1 influenza (in several languages)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on H1N1 influenza
More information for patients about H1N1 influenza is available through Choices, an information resource provided by the UK National Health Service
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001103
PMCID: PMC3186812  PMID: 21990967
9.  Nonparametric survival analysis of infectious disease data 
Summary
This paper develops nonparametric methods based on contact intervals for the analysis of infectious disease data. The contact interval from person i to person j is the time between the onset of infectiousness in i and infectious contact from i to j, where we define infectious contact as a contact sufficient to infect a susceptible individual. The hazard function of the contact interval distribution equals the hazard of infectious contact from i to j, so it provides a summary of the evolution of infectiousness over time. When who-infects-whom is observed, the Nelson-Aalen estimator produces an unbiased estimate of the cumulative hazard function of the contact interval distribution. When who-infects-whom is not observed, we use an EM algorithm to average the Nelson-Aalen estimates from all possible combinations of who-infected-whom consistent with the observed data. This converges to a nonparametric maximum likelihood estimate of the cumulative hazard function that we call the marginal Nelson-Aalen estimate. We study the behavior of these methods in simulations and use them to analyze household surveillance data from the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9868.2012.01042.x
PMCID: PMC3681432  PMID: 23772180
Chain-binomial models; Contact intervals; Generation intervals; Infectious disease; Nonparametric methods; Survival analysis
10.  Estimates of Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe, 2009–2010: Results of Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) Multicentre Case-Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000388.
Results from a European multicentre case-control study reported by Marta Valenciano and colleagues suggest good protection by the pandemic monovalent H1N1 vaccine against pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine on H1N1.
Background
A multicentre case-control study based on sentinel practitioner surveillance networks from seven European countries was undertaken to estimate the effectiveness of 2009–2010 pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines against medically attended influenza-like illness (ILI) laboratory-confirmed as pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1).
Methods and Findings
Sentinel practitioners swabbed ILI patients using systematic sampling. We included in the study patients meeting the European ILI case definition with onset of symptoms >14 days after the start of national pandemic vaccination campaigns. We compared pH1N1 cases to influenza laboratory-negative controls. A valid vaccination corresponded to >14 days between receiving a dose of vaccine and symptom onset. We estimated pooled vaccine effectiveness (VE) as 1 minus the odds ratio with the study site as a fixed effect. Using logistic regression, we adjusted VE for potential confounding factors (age group, sex, month of onset, chronic diseases and related hospitalizations, smoking history, seasonal influenza vaccinations, practitioner visits in previous year). We conducted a complete case analysis excluding individuals with missing values and a multiple multivariate imputation to estimate missing values. The multivariate imputation (n = 2902) adjusted pandemic VE (PIVE) estimates were 71.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 45.6–85.5) overall; 78.4% (95% CI 54.4–89.8) in patients <65 years; and 72.9% (95% CI 39.8–87.8) in individuals without chronic disease. The complete case (n = 1,502) adjusted PIVE were 66.0% (95% CI 23.9–84.8), 71.3% (95% CI 29.1–88.4), and 70.2% (95% CI 19.4–89.0), respectively. The adjusted PIVE was 66.0% (95% CI −69.9 to 93.2) if vaccinated 8–14 days before ILI onset. The adjusted 2009–2010 seasonal influenza VE was 9.9% (95% CI −65.2 to 50.9).
Conclusions
Our results suggest good protection of the pandemic monovalent vaccine against medically attended pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine. However, the late availability of the pandemic vaccine and subsequent limited coverage with this vaccine hampered our ability to study vaccine benefits during the outbreak period. Future studies should include estimation of the effectiveness of the new trivalent vaccine in the upcoming 2010–2011 season, when vaccination will occur before the influenza season starts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Following the World Health Organization's declaration of pandemic phase six in June 2009, manufacturers developed vaccines against pandemic influenza A 2009 (pH1N1). On the basis of the scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission initially granted marketing authorization to three pandemic vaccines for use in European countries. During the autumn of 2009, most European countries included the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine and the pandemic vaccine in their influenza vaccination programs.
The Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe network (established to monitor seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness) conducted seven case-control and three cohort studies in seven European countries in 2009–2010 to estimate the effectiveness of the pandemic and seasonal vaccines. Data from the seven pilot case-control studies were pooled to provide overall adjusted estimates of vaccine effectiveness.
Why Was This Study Done?
After seasonal and pandemic vaccines are made available to populations, it is necessary to estimate the effectiveness of the vaccines at the population level during every influenza season. Therefore, this study was conducted in European countries to estimate the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness against people presenting to their doctor with influenza-like illness who were confirmed (by laboratory tests) to be infected with pH1N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a multicenter case-control study on the basis of practitioner surveillance networks from seven countries—France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Spain. Patients consulting a participating practitioner for influenza-like illness had a nasal or throat swab taken within 8 days of symptom onset. Cases were swabbed patients who tested positive for pH1N1. Patients presenting with influenza-like illness whose swab tested negative for any influenza virus were controls.
Individuals were considered vaccinated if they had received a dose of the vaccine more than 14 days before the date of onset of influenza-like illness and unvaccinated if they were not vaccinated at all, or if the vaccine was given less than 15 days before the onset of symptoms. The researchers analyzed pandemic influenza vaccination effectiveness in those vaccinated less than 8 days, those vaccinated between and including 8 and 14 days, and those vaccinated more than 14 days before onset of symptoms compared to those who had never been vaccinated.
The researchers used modeling (taking account of all potential confounding factors) to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness and stratified the adjusted pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and the adjusted seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in three age groups (<15, 15–64, and ≥65 years of age).
The adjusted results suggest that the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine did not protect against pH1N1 illness. However, one dose of the pandemic vaccines used in the participating countries conferred good protection (65.5%–100% according to various stratifications performed) against pH1N1 in people who attended their practitioner with influenza-like illness, especially in people aged <65 years and in those without any chronic disease. Furthermore, good pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness was observed as early as 8 days after vaccination.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study provide early estimates of the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness suggesting that the monovalent pandemic vaccines have been effective. The findings also give an indication of the vaccine effectiveness for the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 strain included in the 2010–2011 seasonal vaccines, although specific vaccine effectiveness studies will have to be conducted to verify if similar good effectiveness are observed with 2010–2011 trivalent vaccines. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because of limitations in the pandemic context (late timing of the studies, low incidence, low vaccine coverage leading to imprecise estimates) and potential biases due the study design, confounding factors, and missing values. The researchers recommend that in future season studies, the sample size per country should be enlarged in order to allow for precise pooled and stratified analyses.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388.
The World Health Organization has information on H1N1 vaccination
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fact sheet on the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus
The US Department of Health and Human services has a comprehensive website on flu
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides information on 2009 H1N1 pandemic
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control presents a summary of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Europe and elsewhere
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388
PMCID: PMC3019108  PMID: 21379316
11.  Monitoring the Impact of Influenza by Age: Emergency Department Fever and Respiratory Complaint Surveillance in New York City 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e247.
Background
The importance of understanding age when estimating the impact of influenza on hospitalizations and deaths has been well described, yet existing surveillance systems have not made adequate use of age-specific data. Monitoring influenza-related morbidity using electronic health data may provide timely and detailed insight into the age-specific course, impact and epidemiology of seasonal drift and reassortment epidemic viruses. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of emergency department (ED) chief complaint data for measuring influenza-attributable morbidity by age and by predominant circulating virus.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed electronically reported ED fever and respiratory chief complaint and viral surveillance data in New York City (NYC) during the 2001–2002 through 2005–2006 influenza seasons, and inferred dominant circulating viruses from national surveillance reports. We estimated influenza-attributable impact as observed visits in excess of a model-predicted baseline during influenza periods, and epidemic timing by threshold and cross correlation. We found excess fever and respiratory ED visits occurred predominantly among school-aged children (8.5 excess ED visits per 1,000 children aged 5–17 y) with little or no impact on adults during the early-2002 B/Victoria-lineage epidemic; increased fever and respiratory ED visits among children younger than 5 y during respiratory syncytial virus-predominant periods preceding epidemic influenza; and excess ED visits across all ages during the 2003–2004 (9.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) and 2004–2005 (5.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage epidemics, with the relative impact shifted within and between seasons from younger to older ages. During each influenza epidemic period in the study, ED visits were increased among school-aged children, and each epidemic peaked among school-aged children before other impacted age groups.
Conclusions
Influenza-related morbidity in NYC was highly age- and strain-specific. The impact of reemerging B/Victoria-lineage influenza was focused primarily on school-aged children born since the virus was last widespread in the US, while epidemic A/Fujian-lineage influenza affected all age groups, consistent with a novel antigenic variant. The correspondence between predominant circulating viruses and excess ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths shows that excess fever and respiratory ED visits provide a reliable surrogate measure of incident influenza-attributable morbidity. The highly age-specific impact of influenza by subtype and strain suggests that greater age detail be incorporated into ongoing surveillance. Influenza morbidity surveillance using electronic data currently available in many jurisdictions can provide timely and representative information about the age-specific epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Don Olson and colleagues report that influenza-related morbidity in NYC from 2001 to 2006 was highly age- and strain-specific and conclude that surveillance using electronic data can provide timely and representative information about the epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza (a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways) send millions of people to their beds every winter. Most recover quickly, but flu epidemics often disrupt daily life and can cause many deaths. Seasonal epidemics occur because influenza viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the human immune system recognizes. Consequently, an immune response that combats influenza one year may provide partial or no protection the following year. Occasionally, an influenza virus with large antigenic changes emerges that triggers an influenza pandemic, or global epidemic. To help prepare for both seasonal epidemics and pandemics, public-health officials monitor influenza-related illness and death, investigate unusual outbreaks of respiratory diseases, and characterize circulating strains of the influenza virus. While traditional influenza-related illness surveillance systems rely on relatively slow voluntary clinician reporting of cases with influenza-like illness symptoms, some jurisdictions have also started to use “syndromic” surveillance systems. These use electronic health-related data rather than clinical impression to track illness in the community. For example, increased visits to emergency departments for fever or respiratory (breathing) problems can provide an early warning of an influenza outbreak.
Why Was This Study Done?
Rapid illness surveillance systems have been shown to detect flu outbreaks earlier than is possible through monitoring deaths from pneumonia or influenza. Increases in visits to emergency departments by children for fever or respiratory problems can provide an even earlier indicator. Researchers have not previously examined in detail how fever and respiratory problems by age group correlate with the predominant circulating respiratory viruses. Knowing details like this would help public-health officials detect and respond to influenza epidemics and pandemics. In this study, the researchers have used data collected between 2001 and 2006 in New York City emergency departments to investigate these aspects of syndromic surveillance for influenza.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed emergency department visits categorized broadly into a fever and respiratory syndrome (which provides an estimate of the total visits attributable to influenza) or more narrowly into an influenza-like illness syndrome (which specifically indicates fever with cough and/or sore throat) with laboratory-confirmed influenza surveillance data. They found that emergency department visits were highest during peak influenza periods, and that the affect on different age groups varied depending on the predominant circulating viruses. In early 2002, an epidemic reemergence of B/Victoria-lineage influenza viruses caused increased visits among school-aged children, while adult visits did not increase. By contrast, during the 2003–2004 season, when the predominant virus was an A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage influenza virus, excess visits occurred in all age groups, though the relative increase was greatest and earliest among school-aged children. During periods of documented respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulation, increases in fever and respiratory emergency department visits occurred in children under five years of age regardless of influenza circulation. Finally, the researchers found that excess visits to emergency departments for fever and respiratory symptoms preceded deaths from pneumonia or influenza by about two weeks.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that excess emergency department visits for fever and respiratory symptoms can provide a reliable and timely surrogate measure of illness due to influenza. They also provide new insights into how different influenza viruses affect people of different ages and how the timing and progression of each influenza season differs. These results, based on data collected over only five years in one city, might not be generalizable to other settings or years, warn the researchers. However, the present results strongly suggest that the routine monitoring of influenza might be improved by using electronic health-related data, such as emergency department visit data, and by examining it specifically by age group. Furthermore, by showing that school-aged children can be the first people to be affected by seasonal influenza, these results highlight the important role this age group plays in community-wide transmission of influenza, an observation that could influence the implementation of public-health strategies such as vaccination that aim to protect communities during influenza epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247.
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on influenza for patients and health professionals and on influenza surveillance in the US (in English, Spanish, and several other languages)
• World Health Organization has a fact sheet on influenza and on global surveillance for influenza (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
• The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on flu (in English and Spanish)
• US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a feature called “focus on flu”
• A detailed report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention titled “Framework for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems for Early Detection of Outbreaks” includes a simple description of syndromic surveillance
• The International Society for Disease Surveillance has a collaborative syndromic surveillance public wiki
• The Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory includes working papers and discussions by cultural anthropologists studying modern vital systems security and syndromic surveillance
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247
PMCID: PMC1939858  PMID: 17683196
12.  Episodic Sexual Transmission of HIV Revealed by Molecular Phylodynamics 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e50.
Background
The structure of sexual contact networks plays a key role in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, and their reconstruction from interview data has provided valuable insights into the spread of infection. For HIV, the long period of infectivity has made the interpretation of contact networks more difficult, and major discrepancies have been observed between the contact network and the transmission network revealed by viral phylogenetics. The high rate of HIV evolution in principle allows for detailed reconstruction of links between virus from different individuals, but often sampling has been too sparse to describe the structure of the transmission network. The aim of this study was to analyze a high-density sample of an HIV-infected population using recently developed techniques in phylogenetics to infer the short-term dynamics of the epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods and Findings
Sequences of the protease and reverse transcriptase coding regions from 2,126 patients, predominantly MSM, from London were compared: 402 of these showed a close match to at least one other subtype B sequence. Nine large clusters were identified on the basis of genetic distance; all were confirmed by Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov chain (MCMC) phylogenetic analysis. Overall, 25% of individuals with a close match with one sequence are linked to 10 or more others. Dated phylogenies of the clusters using a relaxed clock indicated that 65% of the transmissions within clusters took place between 1995 and 2000, and 25% occurred within 6 mo after infection. The likelihood that not all members of the clusters have been identified renders the latter observation conservative.
Conclusions
Reconstruction of the HIV transmission network using a dated phylogeny approach has revealed the HIV epidemic among MSM in London to have been episodic, with evidence of multiple clusters of transmissions dating to the late 1990s, a period when HIV prevalence is known to have doubled in this population. The quantitative description of the transmission dynamics among MSM will be important for parameterization of epidemiological models and in designing intervention strategies.
Using viral genotype data from HIV drug resistance testing at a London clinic, Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues derive the structure of the transmission network through phylogenetic analysis.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is mainly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Like other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS spreads through networks of sexual contacts. The characteristics of these complex networks (which include people who have serial sexual relationships with single partners and people who have concurrent sexual relationships with several partners) affect how quickly diseases spread in the short term and how common the disease is in the long term. For many sexually transmitted diseases, sexual contact networks can be reconstructed from interview data. The information gained in this way can be used for partner notification so that transmitters of the disease and people who may have been unknowingly infected can be identified, treated, and advised about disease prevention. It can also be used to develop effective community-based prevention strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although sexual contact networks have provided valuable information about the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases, they cannot easily be used to understand HIV transmission patterns. This is because the period of infectivity with HIV is long and the risk of infection from a single sexual contact with an infected person is low. Another way to understand the spread of HIV is through phylogenetics, which examines the genetic relatedness of viruses obtained from different individuals. Frequent small changes in the genetic blueprint of HIV allow the virus to avoid the human immune response and to become resistant to antiretroviral drugs. In this study, the researchers use recently developed analytical methods, viral sequences from a large proportion of a specific HIV-infected population, and information on when each sample was taken, to learn about transmission of HIV/AIDS in London among men who have sex with men (MSM; a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). This new approach, which combines information on viral genetic variation and viral population dynamics, is called “molecular phylodynamics.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the sequences of the genes encoding the HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase from more than 2,000 patients, mainly MSM, attending a large London HIV clinic between 1997 and 2003. 402 of these sequences closely matched at least one other subtype B sequence (the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in the UK primarily involves HIV subtype B). Further analysis showed that the patients from whom this subset of sequences came formed six clusters of ten or more individuals, as well as many smaller clusters, based on the genetic relatedness of their HIV viruses. The researchers then used information on the date when each sample was collected and a “relaxed clock” approach (which accounts for the possibility that different sequences evolve at different rates) to determine dated phylogenies (patterns of genetic relatedness that indicate when gene sequences change) for the clusters. These phylogenies indicated that at least in one in four transmissions between the individuals in the large clusters occurred within 6 months of infection, and that most of the transmissions within each cluster occurred over periods of 3–4 years during the late 1990s.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This phylodynamic reconstruction of the HIV transmission network among MSM in a London clinic indicates that the HIV epidemic in this population has been episodic with multiple clusters of transmission occurring during the late 1990s, a time when the number of HIV infections in this population doubled. It also suggests that transmission of the virus during the early stages of HIV infection is likely to be an important driver of the epidemic. Whether these results apply more generally to the MSM population at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV depends on whether the patients in this study are representative of that group. Additional studies are needed to determine this, but if the patterns revealed here are generalizable, then this quantitative description of HIV transmission dynamics should help in the design of strategies to strengthen HIV prevention among MSM.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among MSM (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) provides information on sexual networks and HIV prevention
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a science primer on molecular phylogenetics
UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance maintains a database of resistance tests
HIV i-Base offers HIV treatment information for health-care professionals and HIV-positive people
The NIH-funded HIV Sequence Database contains data on genetic sequences, resistance, immunology, and vaccine trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050
PMCID: PMC2267814  PMID: 18351795
13.  Using Routine Surveillance Data to Estimate the Epidemic Potential of Emerging Zoonoses: Application to the Emergence of US Swine Origin Influenza A H3N2v Virus 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001399.
Using a novel method to assess the risks of outbreaks and epidemics, Simon Cauchemez and colleagues provide insight into a simple tool that allows for more robust monitoring of the epidemic potential of zoonoses.
Background
Prior to emergence in human populations, zoonoses such as SARS cause occasional infections in human populations exposed to reservoir species. The risk of widespread epidemics in humans can be assessed by monitoring the reproduction number R (average number of persons infected by a human case). However, until now, estimating R required detailed outbreak investigations of human clusters, for which resources and expertise are not always available. Additionally, existing methods do not correct for important selection and under-ascertainment biases. Here, we present simple estimation methods that overcome many of these limitations.
Methods and Findings
Our approach is based on a parsimonious mathematical model of disease transmission and only requires data collected through routine surveillance and standard case investigations. We apply it to assess the transmissibility of swine-origin influenza A H3N2v-M virus in the US, Nipah virus in Malaysia and Bangladesh, and also present a non-zoonotic example (cholera in the Dominican Republic). Estimation is based on two simple summary statistics, the proportion infected by the natural reservoir among detected cases (G) and among the subset of the first detected cases in each cluster (F). If detection of a case does not affect detection of other cases from the same cluster, we find that R can be estimated by 1−G; otherwise R can be estimated by 1−F when the case detection rate is low. In more general cases, bounds on R can still be derived.
Conclusions
We have developed a simple approach with limited data requirements that enables robust assessment of the risks posed by emerging zoonoses. We illustrate this by deriving transmissibility estimates for the H3N2v-M virus, an important step in evaluating the possible pandemic threat posed by this virus.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
When a virus emerges in the human population, such viruses can cause global epidemics potentially harming large numbers of people. Zoonotic viruses are viruses that are transmissible from animals to humans; the global health threat of zoonotic viruses was recently demonstrated by the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the SARS epidemic in 2003. Many zoonotic viruses are transmitted by means of an infected vector, while others can be transmitted by inhalation, contact with infected excretions, or by direct contact with an infected animal. Zoonotic viruses primarily cause occasional infections in human populations exposed to reservoir species (the animal species harboring the virus) because the pathogens are usually poorly adapted for sustained human-to-human transmission. However, zoonotic viruses are under strong selective pressure to acquire the ability for human-to-human transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza epidemic was alarming to many because of the high mortality rate in humans and its rapid spread in avian populations. Public health response to outbreaks such as those of H5N1 avian influenza and SARS required reliable estimates of transmissibility (how easily it spreads between people) and severity (the proportion of infected people who needed hospital treatment). For efficient prevention and control of the emerging epidemic, quantitative and rigorous assessment of the associated risks is needed. Specifically, health officials and researchers need fast, reliable methods for estimating the extent to which a virus has acquired the ability to transmit from person to person. In this study, the authors developed a novel method to estimate a standard measure of transmissibility, the human-to-human reproduction number R (average number of persons infected by a human case) of a zoonotic virus, which overcomes many of the limitations of existing methods.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors developed a simple method to estimate the reproduction number of emerging zoonoses from routine surveillance data. By using two simple summary statistics, the proportion infected by the natural reservoir among detected cases (G) and among the subset of the first detected cases in each cluster (F), the authors estimated R, the reproduction number of zoonoses in humans. The authors then applied their new approach to assess the human-to-human transmissibility of swine-origin influenza A variant (H1N1v, H1N2v, and H3N2v) virus, in particular that of the H3N2v-M virus, from US surveillance data for the period December 2005–December 2011, Nipah virus in Malaysia and Bangladesh, as well as to a non-zoonotic pathogen Vibrio Cholerae in the Dominican Republic. This study demonstrates the applicability of this novel approach to estimating R during zoonotic and certain non-zoonotic outbreaks.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Cauchemez and colleagues show that their new approach will be useful in assessing human-to-human transmissions during zoonotic outbreaks. The authors show that their new method does not require as much of an investigation effort as existing methods, the statistical treatment of the data is extremely simple, and the robustness of the method is demonstrated even if larger clusters are more likely to be detected and if the ability to detect all cases in a cluster once a cluster is identified is low. This method of estimating R is designed for the context of subcritical outbreaks, i.e., R<1. However if R≥1, other estimation methods will be needed.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001399.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases provides information on infectious disease
The CDC also has resources for pandemic flu and H3N2v
The University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary medicine has an online tutorial on zoonotic diseases
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also provides comprehensive information on zoonotic diseases
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001399
PMCID: PMC3589342  PMID: 23472057
14.  Generation interval contraction and epidemic data analysis 
Mathematical biosciences  2008;213(1):71-79.
The generation interval is the time between the infection time of an infected person and the infection time of his or her infector. Probability density functions for generation intervals have been an important input for epidemic models and epidemic data analysis. In this paper, we specify a general stochastic SIR epidemic model and prove that the mean generation interval decreases when susceptible persons are at risk of infectious contact from multiple sources. The intuition behind this is that when a susceptible person has multiple potential infectors, there is a “race” to infect him or her in which only the first infectious contact leads to infection. In an epidemic, the mean generation interval contracts as the prevalence of infection increases. We call this global competition among potential infectors. When there is rapid transmission within clusters of contacts, generation interval contraction can be caused by a high local prevalence of infection even when the global prevalence is low. We call this local competition among potential infectors. Using simulations, we illustrate both types of competition. Finally, we show that hazards of infectious contact can be used instead of generation intervals to estimate the time course of the effective reproductive number in an epidemic. This approach leads naturally to partial likelihoods for epidemic data that are very similar to those that arise in survival analysis, opening a promising avenue of methodological research in infectious disease epidemiology.
doi:10.1016/j.mbs.2008.02.007
PMCID: PMC2365921  PMID: 18394654
15.  Bayesian Contact Tracing for Communicable Respiratory Disease 
Objective
The purpose of our work is to develop a system for automatic contact tracing with the goal of identifying individuals who are most likely infected, even if we do not have direct diagnostic information on their health status. Control of the spread of respiratory pathogens (e.g. novel influenza viruses) in the population using vaccination is a challenging problem that requires quick identification of the infectious agent followed by large-scale production and administration of a vaccine. This takes a significant amount of time. A complementary approach to control transmission is contact tracing and quarantining, which are currently applied to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For STDs, identifying the contacts that might have led to disease transmission is relatively easy; however, for respiratory pathogens, the contacts that can lead to transmission include a huge number of face-to-face daily social interactions that are impossible to trace manually.
Introduction
The evolution of novel influenza viruses in humans is a biological phenomenon that can not be stopped. All existing data suggest that vaccination against the morbidity and mortality of the novel influenza viruses is our best line of defence. Unfortunately, vaccination requires that the infectious agent to be quickly identified and a safe vaccine in large quantities is produced and administered. As was witnessed with the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, these steps took a frustratingly long period during which the novel influenza virus continued its unstoppable and rapid global spreading.
In addition to the different vaccination strategies (e.g. random mass vaccination, age structured vaccination), isolation and quarantining of infected individuals is another effective method used by the public health agencies to control the spreading of infectious diseases. Isolation is effective against any infectious disease, however it can be very hard to detect infectious individuals in the population when: Symptoms are ambiguous or easily misdiagnosed (e.g. 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak shared many symptoms with many other influenza like illnesses)When the symptoms emerge after the individual become infectious.
Methods
We developed a dynamic Bayesian network model to process sensor information from users’ cellphones together with (possibly incomplete) diagnosis information to track the spread of disease in a population. Our model tracks real-time proximity contacts and can provide public health agencies with the probability of infection for each individual in the model.
For testing our algorithm, we used a real-world mobile sensor dataset with 120 individuals collected over a period of 9 months, and we simulated an outbreak.
Results
We ran several experiments where different sub-populations were “infected” and “diagnosed.” By using the contact information, our model was able to automatically identify individuals in the population who were likely to be infected even though they were not directly “diagnosed” with an illness.
Conclusions
Automatic contact tracing for respiratory pathogens is a powerful idea, however we have identified several implementation challenges. The first challenge is scalability: we note that a contact tracing system with a hundred thousand individuals requires a Bayesian model with a billion nodes. Bayesian inference on models of this scale is an open problem and an active area of research. The second challenge is privacy protection: although the test data were collected in an academic setting, deploying any system will require appropriate safeguards for user privacy. Nonetheless, our work llustrates the potential for broader use of contact tracing for modeling and controlling disease transmission.
PMCID: PMC3692863
Outbreak Detection; Syndromic Surveillance; Mobile; Contact Tracing; Bayesian Algorithms
16.  Time variations in the transmissibility of pandemic influenza in Prussia, Germany, from 1918–19 
Background
Time variations in transmission potential have rarely been examined with regard to pandemic influenza. This paper reanalyzes the temporal distribution of pandemic influenza in Prussia, Germany, from 1918–19 using the daily numbers of deaths, which totaled 8911 from 29 September 1918 to 1 February 1919, and the distribution of the time delay from onset to death in order to estimate the effective reproduction number, Rt, defined as the actual average number of secondary cases per primary case at a given time.
Results
A discrete-time branching process was applied to back-calculated incidence data, assuming three different serial intervals (i.e. 1, 3 and 5 days). The estimated reproduction numbers exhibited a clear association between the estimates and choice of serial interval; i.e. the longer the assumed serial interval, the higher the reproduction number. Moreover, the estimated reproduction numbers did not decline monotonically with time, indicating that the patterns of secondary transmission varied with time. These tendencies are consistent with the differences in estimates of the reproduction number of pandemic influenza in recent studies; high estimates probably originate from a long serial interval and a model assumption about transmission rate that takes no account of time variation and is applied to the entire epidemic curve.
Conclusion
The present findings suggest that in order to offer robust assessments it is critically important to clarify in detail the natural history of a disease (e.g. including the serial interval) as well as heterogeneous patterns of transmission. In addition, given that human contact behavior probably influences transmissibility, individual countermeasures (e.g. household quarantine and mask-wearing) need to be explored to construct effective non-pharmaceutical interventions.
doi:10.1186/1742-4682-4-20
PMCID: PMC1892008  PMID: 17547753
17.  A Piece of the Public Health Surveillance Puzzle: Social Contacts among School-Aged Children 
Objective
To enhance public health surveillance and response for acute respiratory infectious diseases by understanding social contacts among school-aged children
Introduction
Timely and effective public health decision-making for control and prevention of acute respiratory infectious diseases relies on early disease detection, pathogen properties, and information on contact behavior affecting transmission. However, data on contact behavior are currently limited, and when available are commonly obtained from traditional self-reported contact surveys [1, 2]. Information for contacts among school-aged children is especially limited, even though children frequently have higher attack rates than adults, and school-related transmission is commonly predictive of subsequent community-wide outbreaks, especially for pandemic influenza.
Within this context, high-quality data are needed about social contacts. Precise contact estimates can be used in mathematical models to understand infectious disease transmission [3] and better target surveillance efforts. Here we report preliminary data from an ongoing 2-year study to collect social contact data on school-aged children and examine the transmission dynamics of an influenza pandemic.
Methods
Our aim is to capture mixing patterns and contact rates of school-aged children in 24 schools and other non-school-related venues. We used a stratified design to ensure coverage of urban, suburban, and rural school districts, as well as climatically different areas (mountains and desert) in Utah. Elementary, middle, and high schools were chosen in each stratum. We defined a self-reported contact as anyone with whom the participant talked to face-to-face, played with, or touched. Contact logs collected subjective information (age, location, and duration) on self-reported contacts during a 2-day period. Objective contact data were collected by using proximity sensors [4] that recorded signals from other sensors within approximately 3–4 feet.
Mixing patterns during school and non-school-related activities were summarized for participating school-aged children. We developed contact networks using proximity sensor data, providing visualizations of contact patterns as well as numeric contact measures. Contact networks were characterized with respect to degree distribution, and density. The degree for each person was calculated as the number of unique contacts. The density for a network was calculated as the number of observed contacts divided by the number of possible contacts.
Results
Two elementary schools, four summer camps, and one club participated in the study between May and August, 2012. Data were processed for the two schools and one camp. The mean degrees for the two schools were 28 and 29, with network sizes 109 and 129, respectively. The mean degree from camp was 43, whose network size was 141. The density of contacts was 0.26 and 0.22 for the schools and 0.31 for the camp. The density within classrooms at the two schools ranged from 0.78 to 0.98. School-aged children typically underreported contacts using the contact log compared with objective proximity sensor data; this difference was statistically significant.
Conclusions
The variability in these and other contact network characteristics represent factors that could impact influenza transmission. Quantifying these factors improves our understanding of influenza transmission dynamics, which in turn can be used to adapt surveillance methods and control and prevention strategies. Almost all contact among students in our two elementary schools occurs within the classroom and the contact patterns differ by classroom, due to desk arrangement or other characteristics. Thus, during an elementary school outbreak it may be beneficial to focus on classroom-specific surveillance and control strategies.
The study is ongoing and we expect the variability in contact rates and mixing patterns will be even greater for middle and high schools where students switch classrooms and classmates each period. These schools could benefit from alternative surveillance and control strategies that account for the heightened overall mixing of the student body.
PMCID: PMC3692868
children; respiratory infectious disease; social network; transmission model; proximity sensor
18.  Estimated epidemiologic parameters and morbidity associated with pandemic H1N1 influenza 
Background
In the face of an influenza pandemic, accurate estimates of epidemiologic parameters are required to help guide decision-making. We sought to estimate epidemiologic parameters for pandemic H1N1 influenza using data from initial reports of laboratory-confirmed cases.
Methods
We obtained data on laboratory-confirmed cases of pandemic H1N1 influenza reported in the province of Ontario, Canada, with dates of symptom onset between Apr. 13 and June 20, 2009. Incubation periods and duration of symptoms were estimated and fit to parametric distributions. We used competing-risk models to estimate risk of hospital admission and case-fatality rates. We used a Markov Chain Monte Carlo model to simulate disease transmission.
Results
The median incubation period was 4 days and the duration of symptoms was 7 days. Recovery was faster among patients less than 18 years old than among older patients (hazard ratio 1.23, 95% confidence interval 1.06–1.44). The risk of hospital admission was 4.5% (95% CI 3.8%–5.2%) and the case-fatality rate was 0.3% (95% CI 0.1%–0.5%). The risk of hospital admission was highest among patients less than 1 year old and those 65 years or older. Adults more than 50 years old comprised 7% of cases but accounted for 7 of 10 initial deaths (odds ratio 28.6, 95% confidence interval 7.3–111.2). From the simulation models, we estimated the following values (and 95% credible intervals): a mean basic reproductive number (R0, the number of new cases created by a single primary case in a susceptible population) of 1.31 (1.25–1.38), a mean latent period of 2.62 (2.28–3.12) days and a mean duration of infectiousness of 3.38 (2.06–4.69) days. From these values we estimated a serial interval (the average time from onset of infectiousness in a case to the onset of infectiousness in a person infected by that case) of 4–5 days.
Interpretation
The low estimates for R0 indicate that effective mitigation strategies may reduce the final epidemic impact of pandemic H1N1 influenza.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.091807
PMCID: PMC2817319  PMID: 19959592
19.  Effects of Heterogeneous and Clustered Contact Patterns on Infectious Disease Dynamics 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(6):e1002042.
The spread of infectious diseases fundamentally depends on the pattern of contacts between individuals. Although studies of contact networks have shown that heterogeneity in the number of contacts and the duration of contacts can have far-reaching epidemiological consequences, models often assume that contacts are chosen at random and thereby ignore the sociological, temporal and/or spatial clustering of contacts. Here we investigate the simultaneous effects of heterogeneous and clustered contact patterns on epidemic dynamics. To model population structure, we generalize the configuration model which has a tunable degree distribution (number of contacts per node) and level of clustering (number of three cliques). To model epidemic dynamics for this class of random graph, we derive a tractable, low-dimensional system of ordinary differential equations that accounts for the effects of network structure on the course of the epidemic. We find that the interaction between clustering and the degree distribution is complex. Clustering always slows an epidemic, but simultaneously increasing clustering and the variance of the degree distribution can increase final epidemic size. We also show that bond percolation-based approximations can be highly biased if one incorrectly assumes that infectious periods are homogeneous, and the magnitude of this bias increases with the amount of clustering in the network. We apply this approach to model the high clustering of contacts within households, using contact parameters estimated from survey data of social interactions, and we identify conditions under which network models that do not account for household structure will be biased.
Author Summary
The transmission dynamics of infectious diseases are sensitive to the patterns of interactions among susceptible and infectious individuals. Human social contacts are known to be highly heterogeneous (the number of social contacts ranges from few to very many) and to be highly clustered (the social contacts of a single individual tend also to contact each other). To predict the impacts of these patterns on infectious disease transmission, epidemiologists have begun to use random network models, in which nodes represent susceptible, infectious, or recovered individuals and links represent contacts sufficient for disease transmission. This paper introduces a versatile mathematical model that takes both heterogeneous connectivity and clustering into account and uses it to quantify the relative impact of clustered contacts on epidemics and the prediction biases that can arise when clustering and variability in infectious periods are ignored.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002042
PMCID: PMC3107246  PMID: 21673864
20.  Epidemic Spread on Weighted Networks 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(12):e1003352.
The contact structure between hosts shapes disease spread. Most network-based models used in epidemiology tend to ignore heterogeneity in the weighting of contacts between two individuals. However, this assumption is known to be at odds with the data for many networks (e.g. sexual contact networks) and to have a critical influence on epidemics' behavior. One of the reasons why models usually ignore heterogeneity in transmission is that we currently lack tools to analyze weighted networks, such that most studies rely on numerical simulations. Here, we present a novel framework to estimate key epidemiological variables, such as the rate of early epidemic expansion () and the basic reproductive ratio (), from joint probability distributions of number of partners (contacts) and number of interaction events through which contacts are weighted. These distributions are much easier to infer than the exact shape of the network, which makes the approach widely applicable. The framework also allows for a derivation of the full time course of epidemic prevalence and contact behaviour, which we validate with numerical simulations on networks. Overall, incorporating more realistic contact networks into epidemiological models can improve our understanding of the emergence and spread of infectious diseases.
Author Summary
Understanding how infectious diseases spread has public health and ecological implications. The contact structure between hosts strongly affects this spread. However, most studies assume that all types of contacts are identical, when in reality some individuals interact more strongly than others. This is particularly striking for sexual-contact networks, where the number of sex acts is not identical for all partnerships. This heterogeneity in activity can either speed up or slow down epidemic spread depending on how strongly the individuals' number of contacts coincides with their activity. There are two limitations to current frameworks that can explain the lack of studies on weighted networks. First, analytical results are difficult to obtain, which requires numerical simulations. Second, inferring weighted networks from survey data is extremely difficult. Here, we present a novel framework that allows to alleviate these two limitations. Building on configuration type network epidemic approaches, we manage to capture disease spread on weighted networks from the distribution of the number of contacts and distribution of the number of interaction events (e.g. sex acts). This allows us to derive analytical estimates for the epidemic threshold and the rate of spread of the disease. It also allows us to readily incorporate survey data, as illustrated in this study with data from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) carried out in the UK.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003352
PMCID: PMC3861041  PMID: 24348225
21.  Optimizing the Dose of Pre-Pandemic Influenza Vaccines to Reduce the Infection Attack Rate 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e218.
Background
The recent spread of avian influenza in wild birds and poultry may be a precursor to the emergence of a 1918-like human pandemic. Therefore, stockpiles of human pre-pandemic vaccine (targeted at avian strains) are being considered. For many countries, the principal constraint for these vaccine stockpiles will be the total mass of antigen maintained. We tested the hypothesis that lower individual doses (i.e., less than the recommended dose for maximum protection) may provide substantial extra community-level benefits because they would permit wider vaccine coverage for a given total size of antigen stockpile.
Methods and Findings
We used a mathematical model to predict infection attack rates under different policies. The model incorporated both an individual's response to vaccination at different doses and the process of person-to-person transmission of pandemic influenza. We found that substantial reductions in the attack rate are likely if vaccines are given to more people at lower doses. These results are applicable to all three vaccine candidates for which data are available. As a guide to the magnitude of the effect, we simulated epidemics based on historical studies of immunogenicity. For example, for one of the vaccines for which data are available, the attack rate would drop from 67.6% to 58.7% if 160 out of the total US population of 300 million were given an optimal dose rather than 20 out of 300 million given the maximally protective dose (as promulgated in the US National Pandemic Preparedness Plan). Our results are conservative with respect to a number of alternative assumptions about the precise nature of vaccine protection. We also considered a model variant that includes a single high-risk subgroup representing children. For smaller stockpile sizes that allow vaccine to be offered only to the high-risk group at the optimal dose, the predicted benefits of using the homogenous model formed a lower bound in the presence of a risk group, even when the high-risk group was twice as infective and twice as susceptible.
Conclusions
In addition to individual-level protection (i.e., vaccine efficacy), the population-level implications of pre-pandemic vaccine programs should be considered when deciding on stockpile size and dose. Our results suggest that a lower vaccine dose may be justified in order to increase population coverage, thereby reducing the infection attack rate overall.
Steven Riley and colleagues examine the potential benefits of "stretching" a limited supply of vaccine and suggest that substantial reductions in the attack rate are possible if vaccines are given to more people at lower doses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways. Most recover quickly, but the disease can be deadly. In the US, seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) cause 36,000 excess deaths annually. And now there are fears that an avian (bird) influenza virus might trigger a human influenza pandemic—a global epidemic that could kill millions. Seasonal epidemics occur because flu viruses continually make small changes to their hemagglutinin and neuraminidase molecules, the viral proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes. Because of this “antigenic drift,” an immune system response (which can be induced by catching flu or by vaccination with disabled circulating influenza strains) that combats flu one year may provide only partial protection the next year. “Antigenic shift” (large changes in flu antigens) can cause pandemics because communities have no immunity to the changed virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although avian influenza virus, which contains a hemagglutinin type that differs from currently circulating human flu viruses, has caused a few cases of human influenza, it has not started a human pandemic yet because it cannot move easily between people. If it acquires this property, which will probably involve further small antigenic changes, it could kill millions of people before scientists can develop an effective vaccine against it. To provide some interim protection, many countries are preparing stockpiles of “pre-pandemic” vaccines targeted against the avian virus. The US, for example, plans to store enough pre-pandemic vaccine to provide maximum protection to 20 million people (including key health workers) out of its population of 300 million. But, given a limited stockpile of pre-pandemic vaccine, might giving more people a lower dose of vaccine, which might reduce the number of people susceptible to infection and induce herd immunity by preventing efficient transmission of the flu virus, be a better way to limit the spread of pandemic influenza? In this study, the researchers have used mathematical modeling to investigate this question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To predict the infection rates associated with different vaccination policies, the researchers developed a mathematical model that incorporates data on human immune responses induced with three experimental vaccines against the avian virus and historical data on the person–person transmission of previous pandemic influenza viruses. For all the vaccines, the model predicts that giving more people a low dose of the vaccine would limit the spread of influenza better than giving fewer people the high dose needed for full individual protection. For example, the researchers estimate that dividing the planned US stockpile of one experimental vaccine equally between 160 million people instead of giving it at the fully protective dose to 20 million people might avert about 27 million influenza cases in less than year. However, giving the maximally protective dose to the 9 million US health-care workers and using the remaining vaccine at a lower dose to optimize protection within the general population might avert only 14 million infections.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, given a limited stockpile of pre-pandemic vaccine, increasing the population coverage of vaccination by using low doses of vaccine might reduce the overall influenza infection rate more effectively than vaccinating fewer people with fully protective doses of vaccine. However, because the researchers' model includes many assumptions, it can only give an indication of how different strategies might perform, not firm numbers for how many influenza cases each strategy is likely to avert. Before public-health officials use this or a similar model to help them decide the best way to use pre-pandemic vaccines to control a human influenza pandemic, they will need more information about the efficacy of these vaccines and about transmission rates of currently circulating viruses. They will also need to know whether pre-pandemic vaccines actually provide good protection against the pandemic virus, as assumed in this study, before they can recommend mass immunization with low doses of pre-pandemic vaccine, selective vaccination with high doses, or a mixed strategy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040218.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on influenza and influenza vaccination for patients and health professionals (in English, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese)
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on influenza and on the global response to avian influenza (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
The MedlinePlus online encyclopedia devotes a page to flu (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency information on avian, pandemic, and seasonal influenza
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a comprehensive feature called “focus on the flu”
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040218
PMCID: PMC1892041  PMID: 17579511
22.  Air Cleaning Technologies 
Executive Summary
Objective
This health technology policy assessment will answer the following questions:
When should in-room air cleaners be used?
How effective are in-room air cleaners?
Are in-room air cleaners that use combined HEPA and UVGI air cleaning technology more effective than those that use HEPA filtration alone?
What is the Plasmacluster ion air purifier in the pandemic influenza preparation plan?
The experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) locally, nationally, and internationally underscored the importance of administrative, environmental, and personal protective infection control measures in health care facilities. In the aftermath of the SARS crisis, there was a need for a clearer understanding of Ontario’s capacity to manage suspected or confirmed cases of airborne infectious diseases. In so doing, the Walker Commission thought that more attention should be paid to the potential use of new technologies such as in-room air cleaning units. It recommended that the Medical Advisory Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care evaluate the appropriate use and effectiveness of such new technologies.
Accordingly, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee asked the Medical Advisory Secretariat to review the literature on the effectiveness and utility of in-room air cleaners that use high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) air cleaning technology.
Additionally, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee prioritized a request from the ministry’s Emergency Management Unit to investigate the possible role of the Plasmacluster ion air purifier manufactured by Sharp Electronics Corporation, in the pandemic influenza preparation plan.
Clinical Need
Airborne transmission of infectious diseases depends in part on the concentration of breathable infectious pathogens (germs) in room air. Infection control is achieved by a combination of administrative, engineering, and personal protection methods. Engineering methods that are usually carried out by the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system function to prevent the spread of airborne infectious pathogens by diluting (dilution ventilation) and removing (exhaust ventilation) contaminated air from a room, controlling the direction of airflow and the air flow patterns in a building. However, general wear and tear over time may compromise the HVAC system’s effectiveness to maintain adequate indoor air quality. Likewise, economic issues may curtail the completion of necessary renovations to increase its effectiveness. Therefore, when exposure to airborne infectious pathogens is a risk, the use of an in-room air cleaner to reduce the concentration of airborne pathogens and prevent the spread of airborne infectious diseases has been proposed as an alternative to renovating a HVAC system.
Airborne transmission is the spread of infectious pathogens over large distances through the air. Infectious pathogens, which may include fungi, bacteria, and viruses, vary in size and can be dispersed into the air in drops of moisture after coughing or sneezing. Small drops of moisture carrying infectious pathogens are called droplet nuclei. Droplet nuclei are about 1 to 5μm in diameter. This small size in part allows them to remain suspended in the air for several hours and be carried by air currents over considerable distances. Large drops of moisture carrying infectious pathogens are called droplets. Droplets being larger than droplet nuclei, travel shorter distances (about 1 metre) before rapidly falling out of the air to the ground. Because droplet nuclei remain airborne for longer periods than do droplets, they are more amenable to engineering infection control methods than are droplets.
Droplet nuclei are responsible for the airborne transmission of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, chicken pox (varicella), measles (rubeola), and dessiminated herpes zoster, whereas close contact is required for the direct transmission of infectious diseases transmitted by droplets, such as influenza (the flu) and SARS.
The Technology
In-room air cleaners are supplied as portable or fixed devices. Fixed devices can be attached to either a wall or ceiling and are preferred over portable units because they have a greater degree of reliability (if installed properly) for achieving adequate room air mixing and airflow patterns, which are important for optimal effectiveness.
Through a method of air recirculation, an in-room air cleaner can be used to increase room ventilation rates and if used to exhaust air out of the room it can create a negative-pressure room for airborne infection isolation (AII) when the building’s HVAC system cannot do so. A negative-pressure room is one where clean air flows into the room but contaminated air does not flow out of it. Contaminated room air is pulled into the in-room air cleaner and cleaned by passing through a series of filters, which remove the airborne infectious pathogens. The cleaned air is either recirculated into the room or exhausted outside the building. By filtering contaminated room air and then recirculating the cleaned air into the room, an in-room air cleaner can improve the room’s ventilation. By exhausting the filtered air to the outside the unit can create a negative-pressure room. There are many types of in-room air cleaners. They vary widely in the airflow rates through the unit, the type of air cleaning technology used, and the technical design.
Crucial to maximizing the efficiency of any in-room air cleaner is its strategic placement and set-up within a room, which should be done in consultation with ventilation engineers, infection control experts, and/or industrial hygienists. A poorly positioned air cleaner may disrupt airflow patterns within the room and through the air cleaner, thereby compromising its air cleaning efficiency.
The effectiveness of an in-room air cleaner to remove airborne pathogens from room air depends on several factors, including the airflow rate through the unit’s filter and the airflow patterns in the room. Tested under a variety of conditions, in-room air cleaners, including portable or ceiling mounted units with either a HEPA or a non-HEPA filter, portable units with UVGI lights only, or ceiling mounted units with combined HEPA filtration and UVGI lights, have been estimated to be between 30% and 90%, 99% and 12% and 80% effective, respectively. However, and although their effectiveness is variable, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged in-room air cleaners as alternative technology for increasing room ventilation when this cannot be achieved by the building’s HVAC system with preference given to fixed recirculating systems over portable ones.
Importantly, the use of an in-room air cleaner does not preclude either the need for health care workers and visitors to use personal protective equipment (N95 mask or equivalent) when entering AII rooms or health care facilities from meeting current regulatory requirements for airflow rates (ventilation rates) in buildings and airflow differentials for effective negative-pressure rooms.
The Plasmacluster ion technology, developed in 2000, is an air purification technology. Its manufacturer, Sharp Electronics Corporation, says that it can disable airborne microorganisms through the generation of both positive and negative ions. (1) The functional unit is the hydroxyl, which is a molecule comprised of one oxygen molecule and one hydrogen atom.
Plasmacluster ion air purifier uses a multilayer filter system composed of a prefilter, a carbon filter, an antibacterial filter, and a HEPA filter, combined with an ion generator to purify the air. The ion generator uses an alternating plasma discharge to split water molecules into positively and negatively charged ions. When these ions are emitted into the air, they are surrounded by water molecules and form cluster ions which are attracted to airborne particles. The cluster ion surrounds the airborne particle, and the positive and negative ions react to form hydroxyls. These hydroxyls steal the airborne particle’s hydrogen atom, which creates a hole in the particle’s outer protein membrane, thereby rendering it inactive.
Because influenza is primarily acquired by large droplets and direct and indirect contact with an infectious person, any in-room air cleaner will have little benefit in controlling and preventing its spread. Therefore, there is no role for the Plasmacluster ion air purifier or any other in-room air cleaner in the control of the spread of influenza. Accordingly, for purposes of this review, the Medical Advisory Secretariat presents no further analysis of the Plasmacluster.
Review Strategy
The objective of the systematic review was to determine the effectiveness of in-room air cleaners with built in UVGI lights and HEPA filtration compared with those using HEPA filtration only.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat searched the databases of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, INAHATA (International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment), Biosis Previews, Bacteriology Abstracts, Web of Science, Dissertation Abstracts, and NIOSHTIC 2.
A meta-analysis was conducted if adequate data was available from 2 or more studies and where statistical and clinical heterogeneity among studies was not an issue. Otherwise, a qualitative review was completed. The GRADE system was used to summarize the quality of the body of evidence comprised of 1 or more studies.
Summary of Findings
There were no existing health technology assessments on air cleaning technology located during the literature review. The literature search yielded 59 citations of which none were retained. One study was retrieved from a reference list of a guidance document from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which evaluated an in-room air cleaner with combined UVGI lights and HEPA filtration under 2 conditions: UVGI lights on and UVGI lights off. Experiments were performed using different ventilation rates and using an aerosolized pathogen comprised of Mycobaterium parafortuitum, a surrogate for the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Effectiveness was measured as equivalent air changes per hour (eACH). This single study formed the body of evidence for our systematic review research question.
Experimental Results
The eACH rate for the HEPA-UVGI in-room air cleaner was statistically significantly greater when the UV lights were on compared with when the UV lights were off. (P < .05). However, subsequent experiments could not attribute this to the UVGI. Consequently, the results are inconclusive and an estimate of effect (benefit) is uncertain.
The study was reviewed by a scientific expert and rated moderate for quality. Further analysis determined that there was some uncertainty in the directness of the outcome measure (eACH); thus, the GRADE level for the quality of the evidence was low indicating that an estimate of effect is very uncertain.
There is uncertainty in the benefits of using in-room air cleaners with combined UVGI lights and HEPA filtration over systems that use HEPA filtration alone. However, there are no known risks to using systems with combined UVGI and HEPA technology compared with those with HEPA alone. There is an increase in the burden of cost including capital costs (cost of the device), operating costs (electricity usage), and maintenance costs (cleaning and replacement of UVGI lights) to using an in-room air cleaner with combined UVGI and HEPA technology compared with those with HEPA alone. Given the uncertainty of the estimate of benefits, an in-room air cleaner with HEPA technology only may be an equally reasonable alternative to using one with combined UVGI and HEPA technology
Conclusions
In-room air cleaners may be used to protect health care staff from air borne infectious pathogens such as tuberculosis, chicken pox, measles, and dessiminated herpes zoster. In addition, and although in-room air cleaners are not effective at protecting staff and preventing the spread of droplet-transmitted diseases such as influenza and SARS, they may be deployed in situations with a novel/emerging infectious agent whose epidemiology is not yet defined and where airborne transmission is suspected.
It is preferable that in-room air cleaners be used with a fixed and permanent room placement when ventilation requirements must be improved and the HVAC system cannot be used. However, for acute (temporary) situations where a novel/emerging infectious agent presents whose epidemiology is not yet defined and where airborne transmission is suspected it may be prudent to use the in room air cleaner as a portable device until mode of transmission is confirmed. To maximize effectiveness, consultation with an environmental engineer and infection control expert should be undertaken before using an in-room air cleaner and protocols for maintenance and monitoring of these devices should be in place.
If properly installed and maintained, in room air cleaners with HEPA or combined HEPA and UVGI air cleaning technology are effective in removing airborne pathogens. However, there is only weak evidence available at this time regarding the benefit of using an in-room air cleaner with combined HEPA and UVGI air cleaner technology instead of those with HEPA filter technology only.
PMCID: PMC3382390  PMID: 23074468
23.  Modeling the Worldwide Spread of Pandemic Influenza: Baseline Case and Containment Interventions 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e13.
Background
The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is now widespread in Southeast Asia and which diffused recently in some areas of the Balkans region and Western Europe, has raised a public alert toward the potential occurrence of a new severe influenza pandemic. Here we study the worldwide spread of a pandemic and its possible containment at a global level taking into account all available information on air travel.
Methods and Findings
We studied a metapopulation stochastic epidemic model on a global scale that considers airline travel flow data among urban areas. We provided a temporal and spatial evolution of the pandemic with a sensitivity analysis of different levels of infectiousness of the virus and initial outbreak conditions (both geographical and seasonal). For each spreading scenario we provided the timeline and the geographical impact of the pandemic in 3,100 urban areas, located in 220 different countries. We compared the baseline cases with different containment strategies, including travel restrictions and the therapeutic use of antiviral (AV) drugs. We investigated the effect of the use of AV drugs in the event that therapeutic protocols can be carried out with maximal coverage for the populations in all countries. In view of the wide diversity of AV stockpiles in different regions of the world, we also studied scenarios in which only a limited number of countries are prepared (i.e., have considerable AV supplies). In particular, we compared different plans in which, on the one hand, only prepared and wealthy countries benefit from large AV resources, with, on the other hand, cooperative containment scenarios in which countries with large AV stockpiles make a small portion of their supplies available worldwide.
Conclusions
We show that the inclusion of air transportation is crucial in the assessment of the occurrence probability of global outbreaks. The large-scale therapeutic usage of AV drugs in all hit countries would be able to mitigate a pandemic effect with a reproductive rate as high as 1.9 during the first year; with AV supply use sufficient to treat approximately 2% to 6% of the population, in conjunction with efficient case detection and timely drug distribution. For highly contagious viruses (i.e., a reproductive rate as high as 2.3), even the unrealistic use of supplies corresponding to the treatment of approximately 20% of the population leaves 30%–50% of the population infected. In the case of limited AV supplies and pandemics with a reproductive rate as high as 1.9, we demonstrate that the more cooperative the strategy, the more effective are the containment results in all regions of the world, including those countries that made part of their resources available for global use.
A metapopulation stochastic epidemic model for influenza shows the need to include air transportation when assessing the occurrence probability of global outbreaks. The impact of the use of antiviral drugs is also measured.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. Regular epidemics occur because flu viruses frequently make small changes in the viral proteins (antigens) recognized by the human immune system. Consequently, a person's immune-system response that combats influenza one year provides incomplete protection the next year. Occasionally, a human influenza virus appears that contains large antigenic changes. People have little immunity to such viruses (which often originate in birds or animals), so they can start a global epidemic (pandemic) that kills millions of people. Experts fear that a human influenza pandemic could be triggered by the avian H5N1 influenza virus, which is present in bird flocks around the world. So far, fewer than 300 people have caught this virus but more than 150 people have died.
Why Was This Study Done?
Avian H5N1 influenza has not yet triggered a human pandemic, because it rarely passes between people. If it does acquire this ability, it would take 6–8 months to develop a vaccine to provide protection against this new, potentially pandemic virus. Public health officials therefore need other strategies to protect people during the first few months of a pandemic. These could include international travel restrictions and the use of antiviral drugs. However, to get the most benefit from these interventions, public-health officials need to understand how influenza pandemics spread, both over time and geographically. In this study, the researchers have used detailed information on air travel to model the global spread of an emerging influenza pandemic and its containment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers incorporated data on worldwide air travel and census data from urban centers near airports into a mathematical model of the spread of an influenza pandemic. They then used this model to investigate how the spread and health effects of a pandemic flu virus depend on the season in which it emerges (influenza virus thrives best in winter), where it emerges, and how infectious it is. Their model predicts, for example, that a flu virus originating in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a reproductive number (R0) of 1.1 (a measure of how many people an infectious individual infects on average) poses a very mild global threat. However, epidemics initiated by a virus with an R0 of more than 1.5 would often infect half the population in more than 100 countries. Next, the researchers used their model to show that strict travel restrictions would have little effect on pandemic evolution. More encouragingly, their model predicts that antiviral drugs would mitigate pandemics of a virus with an R0 up to 1.9 if every country had an antiviral drug stockpile sufficient to treat 5% of its population; if the R0 was 2.3 or higher, the pandemic would not be contained even if 20% of the population could be treated. Finally, the researchers considered a realistic scenario in which only a few countries possess antiviral stockpiles. In these circumstances, compared with a “selfish” strategy in which countries only use their antiviral drugs within their borders, limited worldwide sharing of antiviral drugs would slow down the spread of a flu virus with an R0 of 1.9 by more than a year and would benefit both drug donors and recipients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Like all mathematical models, this model for the global spread of an emerging pandemic influenza virus contains many assumptions (for example, about viral behavior) that might affect the accuracy of its predictions. The model also does not consider variations in travel frequency between individuals or viral spread in rural areas. Nevertheless, the model provides the most extensive global simulation of pandemic influenza spread to date. Reassuringly, it suggests that an emerging virus with a low R0 would not pose a major public-health threat, since its attack rate would be limited and would not peak for more than a year, by which time a vaccine could be developed. Most importantly, the model suggests that cooperative sharing of antiviral drugs, which could be organized by the World Health Organization, might be the best way to deal with an emerging influenza pandemic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040013.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts about avian influenza and antiviral drugs
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease features information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic flu
The US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on pandemic flu and avian flu, including advice to travelers
World Health Organization has fact sheets on influenza and avian influenza, including advice to travelers and current pandemic flu threat
The UK Health Protection Agency has information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
The UK Department of Health has a feature article on bird flu and pandemic influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040013
PMCID: PMC1779816  PMID: 17253899
24.  The Impact of Illness on Social Networks: Implications for Transmission and Control of Influenza 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;178(11):1655-1662.
We expect social networks to change as a result of illness, but social contact data are generally collected from healthy persons. Here we quantified the impact of influenza-like illness on social mixing patterns. We analyzed the contact patterns of persons from England measured when they were symptomatic with influenza-like illness during the 2009 A/H1N1pdm influenza epidemic (2009–2010) and again 2 weeks later when they had recovered. Illness was associated with a reduction in the number of social contacts, particularly in settings outside the home, reducing the reproduction number to about one-quarter of the value it would otherwise have taken. We also observed a change in the age distribution of contacts. By comparing the expected age distribution of cases resulting from transmission by (a)symptomatic persons with incidence data, we estimated the contribution of both groups to transmission. Using this, we calculated the fraction of transmission resulting from (a)symptomatic persons, assuming equal duration of infectiousness. We estimated that 66% of transmission was attributable to persons with symptomatic disease (95% confidence interval: 0.23, 1.00). This has important implications for control: Treating symptomatic persons with antiviral agents or encouraging home isolation would be expected to have a major impact on transmission, particularly since the reproduction number for this strain was low.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwt196
PMCID: PMC3842903  PMID: 24100954
behavioral change; contact networks; disease transmission; influenza; R0 ratio; social interaction
25.  Estimating Incidence from Prevalence in Generalised HIV Epidemics: Methods and Validation 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e80.
Background
HIV surveillance of generalised epidemics in Africa primarily relies on prevalence at antenatal clinics, but estimates of incidence in the general population would be more useful. Repeated cross-sectional measures of HIV prevalence are now becoming available for general populations in many countries, and we aim to develop and validate methods that use these data to estimate HIV incidence.
Methods and Findings
Two methods were developed that decompose observed changes in prevalence between two serosurveys into the contributions of new infections and mortality. Method 1 uses cohort mortality rates, and method 2 uses information on survival after infection. The performance of these two methods was assessed using simulated data from a mathematical model and actual data from three community-based cohort studies in Africa. Comparison with simulated data indicated that these methods can accurately estimates incidence rates and changes in incidence in a variety of epidemic conditions. Method 1 is simple to implement but relies on locally appropriate mortality data, whilst method 2 can make use of the same survival distribution in a wide range of scenarios. The estimates from both methods are within the 95% confidence intervals of almost all actual measurements of HIV incidence in adults and young people, and the patterns of incidence over age are correctly captured.
Conclusions
It is possible to estimate incidence from cross-sectional prevalence data with sufficient accuracy to monitor the HIV epidemic. Although these methods will theoretically work in any context, we have able to test them only in southern and eastern Africa, where HIV epidemics are mature and generalised. The choice of method will depend on the local availability of HIV mortality data.
Timothy Hallett and colleagues develop and test two user-friendly methods to estimate HIV incidence based on changes in cross-sectional prevalence, using either mortality rates or survival after infection.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More than 25 million people have died from AIDS and about 33 million people are currently infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the virus that causes AIDS). Faced with this threat to human health, governments and international agencies are working together to halt the AIDS epidemic. An important part of this effort is HIV surveillance. The spread of HIV needs to be monitored to assess the impact of interventions (for example, the provision of antiretroviral drugs) and to plan for current and future health care needs. HIV surveillance in countries where the epidemic has spread beyond specific groups into the whole population (a generalized epidemic) has mainly relied on determining the prevalence of HIV infection (the fraction of the population that is infected) among women attending antenatal clinics. Recently, however, household health surveys (for example, the Demographic and Health Surveys) have begun to use blood testing for antibodies to the AIDS virus (serological testing) to provide more accurate estimates of HIV prevalence in the general adult population.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although prevalence estimates provide useful information about the HIV epidemic, another important indicator is incidence—the number of new infections occurring during a specific time period. Incidence measurements provide more information about temporal changes in the epidemic and transmission patterns and allow public-health experts to make better predictions of future health care needs. But, whereas prevalence can be measured with anonymized serological surveys, individuals would have to be identified and followed up in repeat serological surveys to provide a direct measurement of incidence. This is expensive and hard to achieve in many settings. In this study, therefore, the researchers develop and validate two mathematical methods to estimate HIV incidence in generalized HIV epidemics from prevalence data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Changes in the fraction of the population living with HIV (prevalence) can occur not only because of changes in the rate of new infections (incidence), but also because mortality rates are much higher for infected individuals than others. The researchers' methods disentangle the contributions to HIV prevalence (as measured in serological surveys) made by new infections from those due to deaths from AIDS and other causes. Their first method incorporates information on death rates collected in cohort studies of HIV infection (cohort studies investigate outcomes in groups of people); their second method uses information on survival after HIV infection, also collected in long-running cohort studies. The accuracy of both methods was assessed using computer-simulated data and actual data on HIV prevalence and incidence collected in three community-based cohort studies in Zimbabwe and Uganda (countries with generalized but declining HIV epidemics) and Tanzania (a country with a generalized, stable epidemic). Both methods provided accurate estimates of HIV incidence from the simulated data. Using the data collected in Africa, the mean difference between actual measurements of incidence and the estimate provided by method 1 was 19%; for method 2 it was 14%. In addition, the measured and estimated incidences were in good agreement for all age groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest HIV incidence rates can be estimated from repeat surveys of prevalence with sufficient accuracy to monitor the HIV epidemic. The accuracy of the estimates across all age groups is particularly important because knowledge of the age-related risk pattern provides the information on transmission patterns that is needed to design effective intervention programs. Because these methods were tested using data only from southern and eastern Africa where the HIV epidemic is mature and generalized, they may not work as well in regions where the epidemic is restricted to subsets of the population. Other factors that might affect their accuracy include the amount of international migration and the uptake of antiretroviral therapies. Nevertheless, with the increased availability of serial measurements of serological prevalence, these new methods for estimating HIV incidence from HIV prevalence could prove extremely useful for monitoring the progress of national HIV epidemics and for guiding HIV control programs. The authors include spreadsheets that can be used to calculate incidence by either method from consecutive survey data.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050080.
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on HIV infection and AIDS
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on global HIV/AIDS topics (in English and Spanish)
The HIV InSite provides comprehensive and up-to-date information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS from the University of California San Francisco, including country reports on the AIDS epidemic in 195 countries, including Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania
Avert, an international AIDS charity, provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including fact sheets on understanding HIV and AIDS statistics, and on HIV and AIDS in Africa
The Demographic and Health Surveys program collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on health and population trends in countries around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050080
PMCID: PMC2288620  PMID: 18590346

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