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Recommendations for and compliance with social restrictions during implementation of school closures in the early phase of the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 outbreak in Melbourne, Australia

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Author(s): McVernon Jodie | Mason Kate | Petrony Sylvia | Nathan Paula | LaMontagne Anthony | Bentley Rebecca | Fielding James | Studdert David | Kavanagh Anne

Journal: BMC Infectious Diseases
ISSN 1471-2334

Volume: 11;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 257;
Date: 2011;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Localized reactive school and classroom closures were implemented as part of a suite of pandemic containment measures during the initial response to influenza A (H1N1) 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. Infected individuals, and those who had been in close contact with a case, were asked to stay in voluntary home quarantine and refrain from contact with visitors for seven days from the date of symptom onset or exposure to an infected person. Oseltamivir (TamifluĀ®) was available for treatment or prophylaxis. Methods We surveyed affected families through schools involved in the closures. Analyses of responses were descriptive. We characterized recommendations made to case and contact households and quantified adherence to guidelines and antiviral therapy. Results Of the 314 respondent households, 51 contained a confirmed case. The prescribed quarantine period ranged from 1-14 days, reflecting logistic difficulties in reactive implementation relative to the stated guidelines. Household-level compliance with the requirement to stay at home was high (84.5%, 95% CI 79.3,88.5) and contact with children outside the immediate family infrequent. Conclusions Levels of compliance with recommendations in our sample were high compared with other studies, likely due to heightened public awareness of a newly introduced virus of uncertain severity. The variability of reported recommendations highlighted the difficulties inherent in implementing a targeted reactive strategy, such as that employed in Melbourne, on a large scale during a public health emergency. This study emphasizes the need to understand how public health measures are implemented when seeking to evaluate their effectiveness.

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