Researchers Seek Public’s Help in Halting the Spread of Flu

With flu running rampant across many parts of the United States, a frequently asked question is, “How do you prevent the spread of flu among children?”

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are currently investigating how the flu spreads in schools, based on how children interact with each other. And you can help by participating in a brief online survey – no matter your age – and be entered into a weekly drawing for an Amazon or iTunes gift card.

The Social Mixing And Respiratory Transmission in Schools (SMART) study is looking at 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. The researchers will use the data to construct models of school children’s daily interactions so they can develop the most effective preventive measures.

The study is part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effort to create a national policy on school response to the flu and other pandemics.

“Mathematical models like this 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 Shanta Zimmer, M.D., SMART co-principal investigator and associate professor of medicine at Pitt’s School of Medicine. “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, the researchers are asking people to take their survey, which is anonymous, open to any resident of the United States and takes 15 to 45 minutes to complete. The information collected will allow researchers to refine models of infectious disease transmission and seek better methods of disease prevention and control.

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