New Website to Explore Social Networks and Influenza Transmission
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February 5, 2013

New Website to Explore Social Networks and Influenza Transmission

With seasonal influenza activity high across many parts of the United States, one question frequently asked is how to prevent the spread of flu among children. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh are currently investigating how the flu spreads in schools, based on how children interact with each other. They are seeking participants of all ages to take a brief online survey to aid this research.

The Social Mixing And Respiratory Transmission in Schools (SMART) study is investigating how the flu and other respiratory diseases are spread in schools by measuring how often children come in contact with each other in and out of school. Researchers will use the data to construct models of school children’s daily interactions so they can develop the most effective preventive measures.

“Mathematical models can help policymakers and health care providers manage new infectious disease outbreaks. However, these models demand precise empirical estimates of critical factors such as average contact patterns,” said Derek Cummings, PhD, a SMART co-investigator and assistant professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The SMART study will provide key information about mixing rates and patterns of encounters relevant to the spread of infections that will help us determine the efficacy of a proposed control intervention, or where best to target limited prophylactic resources.”

To learn about people’s daily contact patterns, researchers are seeking participants to take their brief survey, which is available at http://www.smart.pitt.edu/contactsurvey. The survey takes 15-45 minutes to complete and is open to any resident of the United States. The information collected will allow researchers to refine models of infectious disease transmission and seek better ways for disease prevention and control.

The SMART study, as well as similar studies taking place at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Utah, are part an effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a national policy on school response to the flu and other pandemics.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health media contact: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.