The incidence and mortality from necrotizing fasciitis (NF) are increasing in New Zealand (NZ). Triggered by a media report that traditional Samoan tattooing was causing NF, we conducted a chart review to investigate the role of this and other predisposing and precipitating factors and to document NF microbiology, complications and interventions in NZ.
We conducted a retrospective review of 299 hospital charts of patients discharged with NF diagnosis codes in eight hospitals in NZ between 2000 and 2006. We documented and compared by ethnicity the prevalence of predisposing and precipitating conditions, bacteria isolated, complications and interventions used.
Out of 299 charts, 247 fulfilled the case definition. NF was most common in elderly males. Diabetes was the most frequent co-morbid condition, followed by obesity. Nearly a quarter of patients were taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Traditional Samoan tattooing was an uncommon cause. Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus were the two commonly isolated bacteria. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was implicated in a relatively small number of cases. Shock, renal failure, coagulation abnormality and multi-organ dysfunction were common complications. More than 90% of patients underwent surgical debridement, 56% were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) and slightly less than half of all patients had blood product transfusion. One in six NF cases had amputations and 23.5% died.
This chart review found that the highest proportion of NF cases was elderly males with co-morbidities, particularly diabetes and obesity. Tattooing was an uncommon precipitating event. The role of NSAID needs further exploration. NF is a serious disease with severe complications, high case fatality and considerable use of health care resources.
Bacterial infection; Ethnicity; Necrotizing fasciitis; New Zealand; Traditional Samoan tattooing
Food safety measures that lower incidence of campylobacteriosis might also prevent Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Guillain-Barré syndrome; Campylobacter infection; camplyobacteriosis; food safety; poultry; government regulations; public health surveillance; epidemiology; New Zealand
There are relatively few large studies of seasonal variation in the occurrence of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). We investigated the seasonal variation in incidence rates of hospitalisation with stroke in patients from Denmark and New Zealand.
Nationwide hospital discharge data from Denmark and New Zealand.
243 381 (median age 75) subjects having a first-time hospitalisation with AF in Denmark and 51 480 (median age 76) subjects in New Zealand constituted the study population. Subjects with previous hospitalisation with stroke were excluded.
Primary and secondary effect measures
Peak-to-trough ratio of the seasonal variation in incidence rates of stroke in AF patients adjusted for an overall trend was primary effect measure and was assessed using a log-linear Poisson regression model. Secondary effect measures were incidence rate ratios of AF and 30-day case fatality for stroke patients.
Incidence rates of AF per 1000 person-years in Denmark increased by 5.4% (95% CI 5.3% to 5.7%) for patients aged <65 and 5% (95% CI 4.9% to 5.1%) for patients aged ≥65, whereas the increase was 0.2% (95% CI −0.2% to 0.6%) for patients aged <65 and 2.6% (95% CI 2.4% to 2.8%) for patients aged ≥65 in New Zealand. In Denmark 36 088 subjects were hospitalised with stroke, and 7518 subjects in New Zealand, both showing peaks during winter with peak-to-trough ratios of 1.22 and 1.27, respectively and a decreasing trend. The 30-day case fatality risk for stroke patients having AF is now (2000–2008) about 20% in both countries.
Although incidence rates of hospitalisation with stroke in patients with AF have decreased in recent years, stroke remains a common AF complication with a high case fatality risk. The marked winter peak in incidence rates of hospitalisation with stroke in AF patients suggests that there are opportunities to reduce this complication. Further studies are necessary to identify how to optimise treatment of AF and prevention of stroke.
Neurology; Stroke; Atrial fibrillation; Seasonal variation; Epidemiology; Internal Medicine; Cardiology; Poisson regression
During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (pH1N1), morbidity and mortality sparing was observed among the elderly population; it was hypothesized that this age group benefited from immunity to pH1N1 due to cross-reactive antibodies generated from prior infection with antigenically similar influenza viruses. Evidence from serologic studies and genetic similarities between pH1N1 and historical influenza viruses suggest that the incidence of pH1N1 cases should drop markedly in age cohorts born prior to the disappearance of H1N1 in 1957, namely those at least 52–53 years old in 2009, but the precise range of ages affected has not been delineated.
Methods and Findings
To test for any age-associated discontinuities in pH1N1 incidence, we aggregated laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 case data from 8 jurisdictions in 7 countries, stratified by single year of age, sex (when available), and hospitalization status. Using single year of age population denominators, we generated smoothed curves of the weighted risk ratio of pH1N1 incidence, and looked for sharp drops at varying age bandwidths, defined as a significantly negative second derivative. Analyses stratified by hospitalization status and sex were used to test alternative explanations for observed discontinuities. We found that the risk of laboratory-confirmed infection with pH1N1 declines with age, but that there was a statistically significant leveling off or increase in risk from about 45 to 50 years of age, after which a sharp drop in risk occurs until the late fifties. This trend was more pronounced in hospitalized cases and in women and was independent of the choice in smoothing parameters. The age range at which the decline in risk accelerates corresponds to the cohort born between 1951–1959 (hospitalized) and 1953–1960 (not hospitalized).
The reduced incidence of pH1N1 disease in older individuals shows a detailed age-specific pattern consistent with protection conferred by exposure to influenza A/H1N1 viruses circulating before 1957.
Damp and mould in homes have been established as risk factors for respiratory health. There is a need for a relatively straightforward assessment of the home that quantifies this risk.
Using data from 891 New Zealand houses, the utility of a Respiratory Hazard Index quantifying key attributes related to damp and mould was tested by studying its associations with self-reported respiratory symptoms.
A dose–response relationship was found whereby each unit increase in the Respiratory Hazard Index was associated with an 11% increase in the odds of at least one episode of wheezing/whistling in the chest over the last 12 months (relative odds of 1.11 with a 95% CI 1.04%–1.20%). An 11% increase in the odds of an asthma attack over the last 12 months was estimated (relative odds of 1.11 with a 95% CI 1.01%–1.22%). These estimates were adjusted for household crowding levels, age, sex and smoking status. There was suggestive evidence of more steeply increasing odds of respiratory symptoms with increasing levels of the Respiratory Hazard Index for children aged under 7. In the worst performing houses according to the Index, a 33% reduction in the number of people experiencing respiratory symptoms (relative risk 0.67 with 95% CI 0.53 to 0.85) could be expected if people were housed in the best performing houses.
This study showed that increased evidence of housing conditions supporting dampness and mould was associated with increased odds of respiratory symptoms. A valid housing assessment tool can provide a rational basis for investment in improved housing quality to improve respiratory health.
Respiratory health; Home environment; Asthma symptoms
Entry screening for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 at Auckland International Airport, New Zealand, detected 4 cases, which were later confirmed, among 456,518 passengers arriving April 27–June 22, 2009. On the basis of national influenza surveillance data, which suggest that ≈69 infected travelers passed through the airport, sensitivity for screening was only 5.8%.
pandemic; communicable diseases; influenza; viruses; emigration and immigration; mass screening; sensitivity; program evaluation; airport; influenza; New Zealand; influenza A(H1N1)pdm09; pandemic (H1N1) 2009; H1N1; pH1N1
Although seasonality is a defining characteristic of many infectious diseases, few studies have described and compared seasonal patterns across diseases globally, impeding our understanding of putative mechanisms. Here, we review seasonal patterns across five enteric zoonotic diseases: campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, vero-cytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis in the context of two primary drivers of seasonality: (i) environmental effects on pathogen occurrence and pathogen-host associations and (ii) population characteristics/behaviour.
We systematically reviewed published literature from 1960–2010, resulting in the review of 86 studies across the five diseases. The Gini coefficient compared temporal variations in incidence across diseases and the monthly seasonality index characterised timing of seasonal peaks. Consistent seasonal patterns across transnational boundaries, albeit with regional variations was observed. The bacterial diseases all had a distinct summer peak, with identical Gini values for campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis (0.22) and a higher index for VTEC (Gini = 0.36). Cryptosporidiosis displayed a bi-modal peak with spring and summer highs and the most marked temporal variation (Gini = 0.39). Giardiasis showed a relatively small summer increase and was the least variable (Gini = 0.18).
Seasonal variation in enteric zoonotic diseases is ubiquitous, with regional variations highlighting complex environment-pathogen-host interactions. Results suggest that proximal environmental influences and host population dynamics, together with distal, longer-term climatic variability could have important direct and indirect consequences for future enteric disease risk. Additional understanding of the concerted influence of these factors on disease patterns may improve assessment and prediction of enteric disease burden in temperate, developed countries.
This research was a part of a contestable rapid response initiative launched by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Ministry of Health in response to the 2009 influenza A pandemic. The aim was to provide health authorities in New Zealand with evidence-based practical information to guide the development and delivery of effective health messages for H1N1 and other health campaigns. This study contributed to the initiative by providing qualitative data about community responses to key health messages in the 2009 and 2010 H1N1 campaigns, the impact of messages on behavioural change and the differential impact on vulnerable groups in New Zealand.
Qualitative data were collected on community responses to key health messages in the 2009 and 2010 Ministry of Health H1N1 campaigns, the impact of messages on behaviour and the differential impact on vulnerable groups. Eight focus groups were held in the winter of 2010 with 80 participants from groups identified by the Ministry of Health as vulnerable to the H1N1 virus, such as people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, children, Pacific Peoples and Māori. Because this study was part of a rapid response initiative, focus groups were selected as the most efficient means of data collection in the time available. For Māori, focus group discussion (hui) is a culturally appropriate methodology.
Thematic analysis of data identified four major themes: personal and community risk, building community strategies, responsibility and information sources. People wanted messages about specific actions that they could take to protect themselves and their families and to mitigate any consequences. They wanted transparent and factual communication where both good and bad news is conveyed by people who they could trust.
The responses from all groups endorsed the need for community based risk management including information dissemination. Engaging with communities will be essential to facilitate preparedness and build community resilience to future pandemic events. This research provides an illustration of the complexities of how people understand and respond to health messages related to the H1N1 pandemic. The importance of the differences identified in the analysis is not the differences per se but highlight problems with a "one size fits all" pandemic warning strategy.
The persistent excess in adverse outcomes by ethnicity highlights the need for improved public health responses.
Evidence suggests that indigenous populations have suffered disproportionately from past influenza pandemics. To examine any such patterns for Māori in New Zealand, we searched the literature and performed new analyses by using additional datasets. The Māori death rate in the 1918 pandemic (4,230/100,000 population) was 7.3× the European rate. In the 1957 pandemic, the Māori death rate (40/100,000) was 6.2× the European rate. In the 2009 pandemic, the Māori rate was higher than the European rate (rate ratio 2.6, 95% confidence interval 1.3–5.3). These findings suggest some decline in pandemic-related ethnic inequalities in death rates over the past century. Nevertheless, the persistent excess in adverse outcomes for Māori, and for Pacific persons residing in New Zealand, highlights the need for improved public health responses.
influenza pandemic; virus; historical; Maori; Pacific
The authors recently undertook a study for the World Health Organization estimating the European burden of injuries that can be attributed to remediable structural hazards in the home. Such estimates are essential for motivating injury prevention efforts as they quantify potential health gains, in terms of injuries prevented, via specific environmental interventions.
We combined exposure estimates from existing surveys and scenarios with estimates of the exposure-risk relationship obtained from a structured review of the literature on injury in the home and housing conditions. The resulting attributable fractions were applied to burden of injury data for the WHO European Region.
This analysis estimated that two specific hazards, lack of window guards at second level and higher, and lack of domestic smoke detectors resulted in an estimated 7,500 deaths and 200,000 disability adjusted life years (DALYs) per year. In estimating the environmental burden of injury associated with housing, important deficiencies in injury surveillance data and related limitations in studies of injury risk attributable to the home environment were apparent. The ability to attribute proportions of the home injury burden to features of the home were correspondingly limited, leading to probable severe underestimates of the burden.
The burden of injury from modifiable home injury exposures is substantial. Estimating this burden in a comprehensive and accurate manner requires improvements to the scope of injury surveillance data and the evidence base regarding the effectiveness of interventions.
Injury burden; housing injury hazards; attributable risk; Europe
Self-diagnosis of influenza is an important component of pandemic control and management as it may support self-management practices and reduce visits to healthcare facilities, thus helping contain viral spread. However, little is known about the accuracy of self-diagnosis of influenza, particularly during pandemics.
We used cross-sectional survey data to correlate self-diagnosis of influenza with serological evidence of 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) infection (haemagglutination inhibition titres of ≥1:40) and to determine what symptoms were more likely to be present in accurate self-diagnosis. The sera and risk factor data were collected for the national A(H1N1) seroprevalence survey from November 2009 to March 2010, 3 months after the first pandemic wave in New Zealand (NZ).
The samples consisted of 318 children, 413 adults and 423 healthcare workers. The likelihood of being seropositive was no different in those who believed they had influenza from those who believed they did not have influenza in all groups. Among adults, 23.3% (95% CI 11.9% to 34.7%) of those who reported having had influenza were seropositive for H1N1, but among those reporting no influenza, 21.3% (95% CI 13% to 29.7%) were also seropositive. Those meeting NZ surveillance or Ministry of Health influenza case definitions were more likely to believe they had the flu (surveillance data adult sample OR 27.1, 95% CI 13.6 to 53.6), but these symptom profiles were not associated with a higher likelihood of H1N1 seropositivity (surveillance data adult sample OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.7).
Self-diagnosis does not accurately predict influenza seropositivity. The symptoms promoted by many public health campaigns are linked with self-diagnosis of influenza but not with seropositivity. These findings raise challenges for public health initiatives that depend on accurate self-diagnosis by members of the public and appropriate self-management action.
To determine whether lay people can accurately recognise influenza infection.
Individuals meeting influenza case definitions were more likely to believe they had influenza.
Self-diagnosis, whether by a lay person or a healthcare worker, did not accurately predict influenza seropositivity.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This is the first published study of the effectiveness of self-diagnosis of influenza compared with laboratory evidence of infection in a broad population-based sample during a pandemic.
Some of the participants who believed they had the flu may have had a seasonal influenza or other respiratory pathogens (although H1N1 was the dominant influenza strain).
This survey was based on symptom recall rather than symptom reports, which may reflect the participants' enduring perceptions of influenza, likely to guide their behaviour in future influenza epidemics.
IHR 2005 establishes a global surveillance system for public health emergencies of international concern.
The new International Health Regulations adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2005 (IHR 2005) represents a major development in the use of international law for public health purposes. One of the most important aspects of IHR 2005 is the establishment of a global surveillance system for public health emergencies of international concern. This article assesses the surveillance system in IHR 2005 by applying well-established frameworks for evaluating public health surveillance. The assessment shows that IHR 2005 constitutes a major advance in global surveillance from what has prevailed in the past. Effectively implementing the IHR 2005 surveillance objectives requires surmounting technical, resource, governance, legal, and political obstacles. Although IHR 2005 contains some provisions that directly address these obstacles, active support by the World Health Organization and its member states is required to strengthen national and global surveillance capabilities.
Disease surveillance; International law; Infectious disease; Emergence; Health law; International Health Regulations; Outbreaks; World Health Organization
A population-level food safety response successfully reduced disease incidence.
Beginning in the 1980s, New Zealand experienced rising annual rates of campylobacteriosis that peaked in 2006. We analyzed notification, hospitalization, and other data to explore the 2007–2008 drop in campylobacteriosis incidence. Source attribution techniques based on genotyping of Campylobacter
jejuni isolates from patients and environmental sources were also used to examine the decline. In 2008, the annual campylobacteriosis notification rate was 161.5/100,000 population, representing a 54% decline compared with the average annual rate of 353.8/100,000 for 2002–2006. A similar decline was seen for hospitalizations. Source attribution findings demonstrated a 74% (95% credible interval 49%–94%) reduction in the number of cases attributed to poultry. These reductions coincided with the introduction of a range of voluntary and regulatory interventions to reduce Campylobacter spp. contamination of poultry. The apparent success of these interventions may inform approaches other countries could consider to help control foodborne campylobacteriosis.
bacteria; foodborne infections; Campylobacter; epidemiology; surveillance; poultry; food supply; bacterial typing; research; New Zealand
An innovative approach to learning public health by using feature-length commercial movies was piloted in the fourth year of a medical degree. We aimed to explore how students responded to this approach and the relative effectiveness of two promotional strategies. Firstly we placed DVDs of 15 movies (with public health-related content) in the medical school library. Then alternating groups of students (total n = 82 students) were exposed to either a brief promotional intervention or a more intensive intervention involving a class presentation. The response rates were 99% at baseline and 85% at follow-up.
The level and strength of support for using movies in public health training increased after exposure to the public health module with significantly more students "strongly agreeing". Student behaviour, in terms of movies viewed or accessed from the library, also suggested student interest. While there were no statistically significant differences in median viewing or library access rates between the two intervention groups, the distribution of viewing patterns was shifted favourably. Those exposed to the more intensive intervention (class presentation) were significantly more likely to have reported watching at least one movie (97% vs. 81%; p = 0.033) or to having accessed at least one movie from the library (100% vs. 70%, p = 0.0001).
This pilot study found that the students had very positive attitudes towards viewing public health-related commercial movies. Movie access rates from the library were also favourable.
Infrared thermal image scanners (ITIS) appear an attractive option for the mass screening of travellers for influenza, but there are no published data on their performance in airports.
ITIS was used to measure cutaneous temperature in 1275 airline travellers who had agreed to tympanic temperature measurement and respiratory sampling. The prediction by ITIS of tympanic temperature (37.8°C and 37.5°C) and of influenza infection was assessed using Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves and estimated sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value (PPV).
Using front of face ITIS for prediction of tympanic temperature ≥37.8°C, the area under the ROC curve was 0.86 (95%CI 0.75–0.97) and setting sensitivity at 86% gave specificity of 71%. The PPV in this population of travellers, of whom 0.5% were febrile using this definition, was 1.5%. We identified influenza virus infection in 30 travellers (3 Type A and 27 Type B). For ITIS prediction of influenza infection the area under the ROC curve was 0.66 (0.56–0.75), a sensitivity of 87% gave specificity of 39%, and PPV of 2.8%. None of the 30 influenza-positive travellers had tympanic temperature ≥37.8°C at screening (95%CI 0% to 12%); three had no influenza symptoms.
ITIS performed moderately well in detecting fever but in this study, during a seasonal epidemic of predominantly influenza type B, the proportion of influenza-infected travellers who were febrile was low and ITIS were not much better than chance at identifying travellers likely to be influenza-infected. Although febrile illness is more common in influenza A infections than influenza B infections, many influenza A infections are afebrile. Our findings therefore suggest that ITIS is unlikely to be effective for entry screening of travellers to detect influenza infection with the intention of preventing entry of the virus into a country.
TOC summary: Crowding and ventilation problems contributed to an increased risk of death.
We describe the epidemiology and risk factors for death in an outbreak of pandemic influenza on a troop ship. Mortality and descriptive data for military personnel on His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport troop ship Tahiti in July 1918 were analyzed, along with archival information. Mortality risk was increased among persons 25–34 years of age. Accommodations in cabins rather than sleeping in hammocks in other areas were also associated with increased mortality risk (rate ratio 4.28, 95% confidence interval 2.69–6.81). Assignment to a particular military unit, the field artillery (probably housed in cabins), also made a significant difference (adjusted odds ratio in logistic regression 3.04, 95% confidence interval 1.59–5.82). There were no significant differences by assigned rurality (rural residence) or socioeconomic status. Results suggest that the virulent nature of the 1918 influenza strain, a crowded environment, and inadequate isolation measures contributed to the high influenza mortality rate onboard this ship.
Influenza; pandemic; viruses; New Zealand; infectious disease outbreak; troop ship; mortality; risk factors; military; historical review
Understanding immunity, incidence and risk factors of the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic (2009 H1N1) through a national seroprevalence study is necessary for informing public health interventions and disease modelling.
Methods and Findings
We collected 1687 serum samples and individual risk factor data between November-2009 to March-2010, three months after the end of the 2009 H1N1 wave in New Zealand. Participants were randomly sampled from selected general practices countrywide and hospitals in the Auckland region. Baseline immunity was measured from 521 sera collected during 2004 to April-2009. Haemagglutination inhibition (HI) antibody titres of ≥1∶40 against 2009 H1N1 were considered seroprotective as well as seropositive. The overall community seroprevalence was 26.7% (CI:22.6–29.4). The seroprevalence varied across age and ethnicity. Children aged 5–19 years had the highest seroprevalence (46.7%;CI:38.3–55.0), a significant increase from the baseline (14%;CI:7.2–20.8). Older adults aged ≥60 had no significant difference in seroprevalence between the serosurvey (24.8%;CI:18.7–30.9) and baseline (22.6%;CI:15.3–30.0). Pacific peoples had the highest seroprevalence (49.5%;CI:35.1–64.0). There was no significant difference in seroprevalence between both primary (29.6%;CI:22.6–36.5) and secondary healthcare workers (25.3%;CI:20.8–29.8) and community participants. No significant regional variation was observed. Multivariate analysis indicated age as the most important risk factor followed by ethnicity. Previous seasonal influenza vaccination was associated with higher HI titres. Approximately 45.2% of seropositive individuals reported no symptoms.
Based on age and ethnicity standardisation to the New Zealand Population, about 29.5% of New Zealanders had antibody titers at a level consistent with immunity to 2009 H1N1. Around 18.3% of New Zealanders were infected with the virus during the first wave including about one child in every three. Older people were protected due to pre-existing immunity. Age was the most important factor associated with infection followed by ethnicity. Healthcare workers did not appear to have an increased risk of infection compared with the general population.
The new International Health Regulations (IHR) require World Health Organization (WHO) member states to assess their core capacity for surveillance. Such reviews also have the potential to identify important surveillance gaps, improve the organisation of disparate surveillance systems and to focus attention on upstream hazards, determinants and interventions.
We developed a surveillance sector review method for evaluating all of the surveillance systems and related activities across a sector, in this case those concerned with infectious diseases in New Zealand. The first stage was a systematic description of these surveillance systems using a newly developed framework and classification system. Key informant interviews were conducted to validate the available information on the systems identified.
We identified 91 surveillance systems and related activities in the 12 coherent categories of infectious diseases examined. The majority (n = 40 or 44%) of these were disease surveillance systems. They covered all categories, particularly for more severe outcomes including those resulting in death or hospitalisations. Except for some notifiable diseases and influenza, surveillance of less severe, but important infectious diseases occurring in the community was largely absent. There were 31 systems (34%) for surveillance of upstream infectious disease hazards, including risk and protective factors. This area tended to have many potential gaps and lack integration, partly because such systems were operated by a range of different agencies, often outside the health sector. There were fewer surveillance systems for determinants, including population size and characteristics (n = 9), and interventions (n = 11).
It was possible to create and populate a workable framework for describing all the infectious diseases surveillance systems and related activities in a single developed country and to identify potential surveillance sector gaps. This is the first stage in a review process that will lead to identification of priorities for surveillance sector development.
Objectives To assess the risk of transmission of pandemic A/H1N1 2009 influenza (pandemic A/H1N1) from an infected high school group to other passengers on an airline flight and the effectiveness of screening and follow-up of exposed passengers.
Design Retrospective cohort investigation using a questionnaire administered to passengers and laboratory investigation of those with symptoms.
Setting Auckland, New Zealand, with national and international follow-up of passengers.
Participants Passengers seated in the rear section of a Boeing 747-400 long haul flight that arrived on 25 April 2009, including a group of 24 students and teachers and 97 (out of 102) other passengers in the same section of the plane who agreed to be interviewed.
Main outcome measures Laboratory confirmed pandemic A/H1N1 infection in susceptible passengers within 3.2 days of arrival; sensitivity and specificity of influenza symptoms for confirmed infection; and completeness and timeliness of contact tracing.
Results Nine members of the school group were laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic A/H1N1 infection and had symptoms during the flight. Two other passengers developed confirmed pandemic A/H1N1 infection, 12 and 48 hours after the flight. They reported no other potential sources of infection. Their seating was within two rows of infected passengers, implying a risk of infection of about 3.5% for the 57 passengers in those rows. All but one of the confirmed pandemic A/H1N1 infected travellers reported cough, but more complex definitions of influenza cases had relatively low sensitivity. Rigorous follow-up by public health workers located 93% of passengers, but only 52% were contacted within 72 hours of arrival.
Conclusions A low but measurable risk of transmission of pandemic A/H1N1 exists during modern commercial air travel. This risk is concentrated close to infected passengers with symptoms. Follow-up and screening of exposed passengers is slow and difficult once they have left the airport.
Some island nations have explicit components of their influenza pandemic plans for providing travel warnings and restricting incoming travellers. But the potential value of such restrictions has not been quantified.
We developed a probabilistic model and used parameters from a published model (i.e., InfluSim) and travel data from Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs).
The results indicate that of the 17 PICTs with travel data, only six would be likely to escape a major pandemic with a viral strain of relatively low contagiousness (i.e., for R0 = 1.5) even when imposing very tight travel volume reductions of 99% throughout the course of the pandemic. For a more contagious viral strain (R0 = 2.25) only five PICTs would have a probability of over 50% to escape. The total number of travellers during the pandemic must not exceed 115 (for R0 = 3.0) or 380 (for R0 = 1.5) if a PICT aims to keep the probability of pandemic arrival below 50%.
These results suggest that relatively few island nations could successfully rely on intensive travel volume restrictions alone to avoid the arrival of pandemic influenza (or subsequent waves). Therefore most island nations may need to plan for multiple additional interventions (e.g., screening and quarantine) to raise the probability of remaining pandemic free or achieving substantial delay in pandemic arrival.
There is some evidence that medical students consider population health issues less important than other domains in the health sciences and attitudes to this field may become more negative as training progresses. A need to improve research skills among medical students has also been suggested. Therefore we piloted an integrative teaching exercise that combined teaching of research skills and public health, with real-world research.
Third year medical students at the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) filled in a questionnaire on their housing conditions and health. The students were given the results of the survey to discuss in a subsequent class. Student response to this teaching exercise was assessed using a Course Evaluation Questionnaire.
Of the 210 students in the class, 136 completed the Course Evaluation Questionnaire (65%). A majority of those who responded (77%) greatly supported or supported the use of the survey and seminar discussion for future third year classes. Most (70%) thought that the session had made them more aware and concerned about societal problems, and 72% felt that they now had an improved understanding of the environmental determinants of health. Students liked the relevance and interaction of the session, but thought it could be improved by the inclusion of small group discussion. The findings of the students' housing and health were considered by the tutors to be of sufficient value to submit to a scientific journal and are now contributing to community action to improve student housing in the city.
In this pilot study it was feasible to integrate medical student teaching with real-world research. A large majority of the students responded favourably to the teaching exercise and this was generally successful in raising the profile of public health and research. This approach to integrated teaching/research should be considered further in health sciences training and continue to be evaluated and refined.
Although border quarantine is included in many influenza pandemic plans, detailed guidelines have yet to be formulated, including considerations for the optimal quarantine length. Motivated by the situation of small island nations, which will probably experience the introduction of pandemic influenza via just one airport, we examined the potential effectiveness of quarantine as a border control measure.
Analysing the detailed epidemiologic characteristics of influenza, the effectiveness of quarantine at the borders of islands was modelled as the relative reduction of the risk of releasing infectious individuals into the community, explicitly accounting for the presence of asymptomatic infected individuals. The potential benefit of adding the use of rapid diagnostic testing to the quarantine process was also considered.
We predict that 95% and 99% effectiveness in preventing the release of infectious individuals into the community could be achieved with quarantine periods of longer than 4.7 and 8.6 days, respectively. If rapid diagnostic testing is combined with quarantine, the lengths of quarantine to achieve 95% and 99% effectiveness could be shortened to 2.6 and 5.7 days, respectively. Sensitivity analysis revealed that quarantine alone for 8.7 days or quarantine for 5.7 days combined with using rapid diagnostic testing could prevent secondary transmissions caused by the released infectious individuals for a plausible range of prevalence at the source country (up to 10%) and for a modest number of incoming travellers (up to 8000 individuals).
Quarantine at the borders of island nations could contribute substantially to preventing the arrival of pandemic influenza (or at least delaying the arrival date). For small island nations we recommend consideration of quarantine alone for 9 days or quarantine for 6 days combined with using rapid diagnostic testing (if available).
Although many countries experience an increase in mortality during winter, the magnitude of this increase varies considerably, suggesting that some winter excess may be avoidable. Conflicting evidence has been presented on the role of gender, region and deprivation. Little has been published on the magnitude of excess winter mortality (EWM) in New Zealand (NZ) and other Southern Hemisphere countries.
Monthly mortality rates per 100,000 population were calculated from routinely collected national mortality data for 1980 to 2000. Generalised negative binomial regression models were used to compare mortality rates between winter (June–September) and the warmer months (October–May).
From 1980–2000 around 1600 excess winter deaths occurred each year with winter mortality rates 18% higher than expected from non-winter rates. Patterns of EWM by age group showed the young and the elderly to be particularly vulnerable. After adjusting for all major covariates, the winter:non-winter mortality rate ratio from 1996–2000 in females was 9% higher than in males. Mortality caused by diseases of the circulatory system accounted for 47% of all excess winter deaths from 1996–2000 with mortality from diseases of the respiratory system accounting for 31%. There was no evidence to suggest that patterns of EWM differed by ethnicity, region or local-area based deprivation level. No decline in seasonal mortality was evident over the two decades.
EWM in NZ is substantial and at the upper end of the range observed internationally. Interventions to reduce EWM are important, but the surprising lack of variation in EWM by ethnicity, region and deprivation, provides little guidance for how such mortality can be reduced.
An outbreak of human Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium DT160 infection in New Zealand was investigated from May to August 2001. Handling of dead wild birds, contact with persons with diarrheal illness, and consumption of fast food were associated with infection. Contaminated roof-collected rainwater was also detected.
Disease outbreaks; Salmonella infections/epidemiology; Salmonella typhimurium; case-control studies; zoonoses; birds; New Zealand; dispatch