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Model shows how H1N1 flu impact could be minimized

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from Toronto have created a model that shows H1N1 flu impact can be minimized by using antiviral agents, H1N1 vaccine, and separating large groups socially. In the coming months, the information could help policy makers in making decisions about how best to protect the public from H1N1 flu.

In an attempt to measure the impact of H1N1 influenza, researchers from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto looked at factors that could minimize the burden of H1N1 flu. The goal of the study is to help policy makers deal with the pandemic.

Researchers looked at data from confirmed cases of H1N1 between April 13 and June 20, 2009 in Ontario, Canada, performing 1000 simulations, finding that H1N1 flu vaccine (which has been deemed safe, despite concerns), staying away from others socially, and antiviral drugs can minimize the impact of H1N1 flu.

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They also found that the average onset of H1N1 flu symptoms after exposure is four days. Symptoms of H1N1 flu typically last one week. Overall, H1N1 flu symptoms are similar to season flu with the exception of higher incidence in younger groups.

"Because the 2009 influenza pandemic continues to evolve, these values are critical for planning and can be used to reduce some of the uncertainty around the health burden likely to be associated with this disease in the coming months," writes Dr. David Fisman of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and co-authors. H1N1 flu has been linked to higher rates of hospitalization and deaths. The authors say that may be because of heightened pandemic surveillance.

Other findings about H1N1 flu show that most hospitalizations of pandemic flu occur in people less than 1 year of age and over age 65 year. According to the researchers, the findings are important for policy makers trying to deal with pandemic influenza. H1N1 flu impact can be lessened by H1N1 vaccine, use of antiviral agents, and social isolation.