Social contacts of student cases of Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 during implementation of social distancing measures in May-June 2009 - Victoria, Australia

Background: Schools play an important role in disease transmission during an influenza pandemic given the high rates of social contact between students. In this study we describe the social contacts of confirmed student cases of Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) 2009 in Victoria, Australia.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study with laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 Pandemic Influenza 09 notified during the Contain Phase of the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (22 May 3 June 2009). Eligible cases were school students at Victorian schools that had ?10 cases. Information collected included symptom details, household characteristics, use of prevention and control measures, and social contacts in regular school-based and other activities during May-June 2009. We examined if students participated in activities during their infectious period (day of onset to seven days after onset).

Results: Of 162 eligible students, 38 (23.4%) were not contactable and 25 (15.4%) declined participation; 99 students (61.1%) were interviewed. Students reported participating in sporting activities (n=44), religious services (n=20), part-time employment (n=18) and attending university (n=10) on a regular basis. Varying levels of social contacts for each activity were reported at school (mean 72.4), religious activities (mean 303.5), employment (mean 43.4), sports groups (mean 32.5), university (mean 13.4), and other activities (mean 32.2). Students had lower participation rates in activities during their infectious period.

Discussion Our findings suggest multiple opportunities for transmission of Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) 2009 through social contact among school students in both school settings and through external activities. The findings suggest evidence of the lack of adherence to social distancing measures in Australia, such as social isolation and cancellation of school activities such as school camps, excursions and socials, irrespective of school closures. For more information, email the presenter at:

Author (s): 

Caroline van Gemert, I Bergeri, J Fielding, N Higgins, R Lester, H Vally, E McBryde, M Hellard

Presenter (s): 
Ms. Caroline van Gemert
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