Immunizing schoolkids fights flu in others, too

December 09, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Mathematical models predicted it, and now a University of Florida study confirms it: Immunizing school-aged children from flu can protect other segments of the population, as well.

When half of 5- to 17-year-old children in Alachua County were vaccinated through a school-based program, the entire age group's flu rates decreased by 79 percent. Strikingly, the rate of influenza-like illness among 0-4 year olds went down 89 percent, despite the fact that this group was not included in the school-based vaccinations. Among all non-school-aged residents, rates of influenza-like illness decreased by 60 percent.

"The effect of school-based vaccination was profound, both on the students and on the community," said Cuc Tran, a doctoral student in public health at UF and a lead author in the study, which was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results can help communities decide how to effectively allocate funding, doses of flu vaccine and awareness campaigns to protect the most people, Tran said. Flu kills thousands of Americans each year, but even when it isn't fatal, flu takes a toll: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate an annual cost of $10.4 billion in hospitalizations and outpatient visits related to flu.

With 38 million school days a year lost to flu, the UF study likely will catch the attention of school districts nationwide, said Nichole Bobo, director of nursing education for the National Association of School Nurses.

"Stakeholders in school districts see the connection between health and learning," she said.

Add in the indirect protection, she said, and "you're able to keep staff in school and parents at work."

The study, which drew on expertise from UF's College of Public Health and Health Professions, Emerging Pathogens Institute, Clinical Translational Science Institute, College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy, is the first to show such pronounced indirect protection among the very young. While babies under 6 months old are susceptible to flu, they cannot be vaccinated. The same goes people with health conditions that prevent them from being immunized.

"It allows us to protect those who can't otherwise be protected," Tran said.

Beginning in 2006, a pilot program - initiated by UF in partnership with county schools, community organizations and the Florida Department of Health - provided free flu vaccines, delivered via a nasal spray, to public-school students. The study data came from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 influenza seasons.

There are a few reasons to focus flu prevention on schoolchildren: When they get flu, they get sick longer and shed more of the virus through their less-than-perfect hygiene habits, making them more likely to infect others. They also interact with more people each day than most adults do, providing more opportunity to spread flu.

The UF study shows that getting school-aged kids immunized can pay dividends throughout the community, said Dr. Parker Small Jr., a co-founder of the study and a professor emeritus in UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

"Flu is the last pandemic killer of mankind," Small said. "Just look at all of the energy devoted to thinking and planning about Ebola. If that same energy was put into flu, you could be saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
-end-


University of Florida

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.