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Assessing secondary attack rates among household contacts at the beginning of the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in Ontario, Canada, April-June 2009: A prospective, observational study

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Author(s): Savage Rachel | Whelan Michael | Johnson Ian | Rea Elizabeth | LaFreniere Marie | Rosella Laura | Lam Freda | Badiani Tina | Winter Anne-Luise | Carr Deborah | Frenette Crystal | Horn Maureen | Dooling Kathleen | Varia Monali | Holt Anne-Marie | Sunil Vidya | Grift Catherine | Paget Eleanor | King Michael | Barbaro John | Crowcroft Natasha

Journal: BMC Public Health
ISSN 1471-2458

Volume: 11;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 234;
Date: 2011;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Understanding transmission dynamics of the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus in various exposure settings and determining whether transmissibility differed from seasonal influenza viruses was a priority for decision making on mitigation strategies at the beginning of the pandemic. The objective of this study was to estimate household secondary attack rates for pandemic influenza in a susceptible population where control measures had yet to be implemented. Methods All Ontario local health units were invited to participate; seven health units volunteered. For all laboratory-confirmed cases reported between April 24 and June 18, 2009, participating health units performed contact tracing to detect secondary cases among household contacts. In total, 87 cases and 266 household contacts were included in this study. Secondary cases were defined as any household member with new onset of acute respiratory illness (fever or two or more respiratory symptoms) or influenza-like illness (fever plus one additional respiratory symptom). Attack rates were estimated using both case definitions. Results Secondary attack rates were estimated at 10.3% (95% CI 6.8-14.7) for secondary cases with influenza-like illness and 20.2% (95% CI 15.4-25.6) for secondary cases with acute respiratory illness. For both case definitions, attack rates were significantly higher in children under 16 years than adults (25.4% and 42.4% compared to 7.6% and 17.2%). The median time between symptom onset in the primary case and the secondary case was estimated at 3.0 days. Conclusions Secondary attack rates for pandemic influenza A (H1N1) were comparable to seasonal influenza estimates suggesting similarities in transmission. High secondary attack rates in children provide additional support for increased susceptibility to infection.

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