Fight school flu: Take the survey

JOHNS HOPKINS/ U. PITTSBURGH (US) — You can help fight flu outbreaks among US schoolchildren simply by taking a survey.

Public health researchers are asking anyone, of any age, living in the United States to take the web-based survey as part of the Social Mixing and Respiratory Transmission in Schools (SMART) study.

The survey, available at, takes 15 to 45 minutes to complete.

SMART’s online questionnaire asks about your previous day’s interactions with people at work or school, in the home, and elsewhere. You can take the survey once or take it once a day as often as you want.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh will use your answers to investigate how influenza spreads. The data will enable them to build models of schoolchildren’s daily interactions with each other and with other people in their lives. The models will help researchers develop effective preventive measures.

“Mathematical models can help policymakers and health care providers manage new infectious disease outbreaks,” says Derek Cummings, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. “However, these models demand precise empirical estimates of critical factors such as average contact patterns.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school-aged children suffer from flu at a rate higher than any other age group. And schools are a natural setting for flu infection. Each day, the CDC reports, about 55 million students and 7 million staff attend more than 130,000 US K-12 schools.

Co-investigator Cummings says 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.”

SMART and similar studies taking place at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Utah are part of an effort by the CDC to create a national policy on school response to the flu and other pandemics.

Source: Johns Hopkins University