Australian researchers say isolation would slow down the spread of outbreaks of influenza. The researchers at the University of Western Australia say their research shows that avoiding contact with other people could greatly reduce the spread of flu.
The researchers Professor George Milne, Dr. Joel Kelso and Dr. Simon Huband used a computer simulation model to emulate the spread of influenza H5N1 commonly known as ‘bird flu’, but they say the results are directly applicable to H1N1 (swine flu).
The researchers say imposing “social distancing” measures such as school closures, home isolation, partial closure of workplaces and reduced community contact, if done rapidly, could prevent a local epidemic. The research team say the timing of activation of such non-pharmaceutical interventions is critical and for a very transmissible strain, application of all four interventions at the same time as the first case is introduced, and enforcing these draconian measures continuously, can potentially hold the illness rate at 16% – compared to 73% if they are not used.
The model used statistical data on the population of Albany, a town of 30,000 people in south-west Western Australia and assumed 100% of infectious children and 90% adults are home quarantined and a 50% reduction in workplace attendance and community-wide contact.