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School age children most likely to pass flu to same gender

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
H1N1 swine flu

H1N1 swine flu infection is more likely to be passed from boys to boys and from girls to girls find investigators,

Researchers from Imperial College London, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health looked at how the viral infection was spread in 2009 in an effort to understand how pandemic flu can be contained.

The study included 370 pupils from 295 households in an elementary school in Pennsylvania. The researchers used statistical charts to analyze how swine flu was spread. Included in the data were seating charts, bus schedules, school nurse logs, attendance records and questionnaires. The research was conducted to further understand spread of viruses and viral illnesses.

"Mathematical models are useful for predicting how outbreaks will spread, but in order to make the models accurate, we need to supply them with data about how disease spreads in the real world," explained Dr Simon Cauchemez. "This is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on how a flu epidemic spreads between children in school, and it tells us a great deal about how social networks influence transmission.

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Cauchemez, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London explains the information about how flu epidemics spread can help public health officials make decisions about when to close schools or individual classrooms.

The study showed children are three times more likely to catch flu from the same gender. They also discovered H1N1 swine flu spread was less likely between children in the same grade and different classrooms.

Flu spread was 5 times higher among classmates compared to children in the same grade but in a different classroom.. Children were 25 times more likely to spread flu in their own classroom rather than to children in different grades. The analysis also showed sitting next to a child with the flu did not substantially raise the chances of infection spread.

In the study, researchers found boys spread H1N1 flu to boys, and girls to girls. The scientists say though it’s impossible to know exactly who caught H1N1 swine flu from whom, the statistical model gives clues about how viruses and viral illnesses spread, providing valuable information about how to contain pandemic influenza.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008895108
"Role of social networks in shaping disease transmission during a community outbreak of 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza"