Calendar effects to forecast influenza seasonality: A case study in Milwaukee, WI


Influenza viral infection is contentious, has a short incubation period, yet preventable if multiple barriers are employed. At some extend school holidays and travel restrictions serve as a socially accepted control measure. A study of a spatiotemporal spread of influenza among school-aged children in Belgium illustrated that changes in mixing patterns are responsible for altering disease seasonality3. Stochastic numerical simulations suggested that weekends and holidays can delay disease seasonal peaks, mitigate the spread of infection, and slow down the epidemic by periodically dampening transmission. While Christmas holidays had the largest impact on transmission, other school breaks may also help in reducing an epidemic size. Contrary to events reducing social mixing, sporting events and mass gatherings facilitate the spread of infections. A study on county-level vital statistics of the US from 1974-2009 showed that Super Bowl social mixing affects influenza dissemination by decreasing mortality rates in older adults in Bowl-participating counties. The effect is most pronounced for highly virulent influenza strains and when the Super Bowl occurs closer to the influenza seasonal peak. Simulation studies exploring how social mixing affects influenza spread demonstrated that impact of the public gathering on prevalence of influenza depends on time proximity to epidemic peak. While the effects of holidays and social events on seasonal influenza have been explored in surveillance time series and agent-based modeling studies, the understanding of the differential effects across age groups is incomplete.

Objective: In the presented study, we examined the impact of school holidays (Autumn, Winter, Summer, and Spring Breaks) and social events (Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series, and Black Friday) for five age groups (<4, 5-24, 25-44, 45-64, >65 years) on four health outcomes of influenza (total tested, all influenza positives, positives for influenza A, and B) in Milwaukee, WI, in 2004-2009 using routine surveillance.

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January, 2019

June 18, 2019

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