Influenza pandemic preparedness plans are currently developed and refined on national and international levels. Much attention has been given to the administration of antiviral drugs, but contact reduction can also be an effective part of mitigation strategies and has the advantage to be not limited per se. The effectiveness of these interventions depends on various factors which must be explored by sensitivity analyses, based on mathematical models.
We use the freely available planning tool InfluSim to investigate how pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions can mitigate an influenza pandemic. In particular, we examine how intervention schedules, restricted stockpiles and contact reduction (social distancing measures and isolation of cases) determine the course of a pandemic wave and the success of interventions.
A timely application of antiviral drugs combined with a quick implementation of contact reduction measures is required to substantially protract the peak of the epidemic and reduce its height. Delays in the initiation of antiviral treatment (e.g. because of parsimonious use of a limited stockpile) result in much more pessimistic outcomes and can even lead to the paradoxical effect that the stockpile is depleted earlier compared to early distribution of antiviral drugs.
Pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical measures should not be used exclusively. The protraction of the pandemic wave is essential to win time while waiting for vaccine development and production. However, it is the height of the peak of an epidemic which can easily overtax general practitioners, hospitals or even whole public health systems, causing bottlenecks in basic and emergency medical care.