Household based quarentine may help your family this flu season

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Development/Milestones: Babies

I don't know about you, but the possibility of a flu pandemic worries me. I am not reassured by health officials, including the Director of Health and Human Services who earlier this year suggested we stockpile dry milk and canned tuna in case of a pandemic. That's a cure? Maybe to him, but not to me. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control recently published a study on the subject.

The outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza in domestic poultry and wild birds has caused global concern over the possible evolution of a novel human strain. If such a strain emerges, and is not controlled at source, a pandemic is likely to result. Health policy in most countries will then be focused on reducing morbidity and mortality (hopefully, as I'm sure you'll all agree, not involving my family and me!). The investigators estimated the expected reduction in primary attack rates for different household-based interventions using a mathematical model of influenza transmission within and between households. They showed that, for lower transmissibility strains, the combination of household-based quarantine, isolation of cases outside the household, and targeted prophylactic use of anti-virals will be highly effective and likely feasible across a range of plausible transmission scenarios. For example, for a basic reproductive number (the average number of people infected by a typically infectious individual in an otherwise susceptible population) of 1.8, assuming only 50% compliance, this combination could reduce the infection (symptomatic) attack rate from 74% (49%) to 40% (27%), requiring peak quarantine and isolation levels of 6.2% and 0.8% of the population, respectively, and an overall anti-viral stockpile of 3.9 doses per member of the population. National influenza pandemic preparedness plans currently focus on reducing the impact associated with a constant attack rate, rather than on reducing transmission.

The findings of the study suggest that the additional benefits and resource requirements of household-based interventions in reducing average levels of transmission should also be considered, even when expected levels of compliance are only moderate. Ah, that makes me feel a little better! At least there are some actions under our control and not the control of others, particularly the government.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.