Several simple practices, such as hand washing and opening a window, can lower the chances of spreading the flu among household members, new research confirms.
“Winter is coming and with it, the threat of flu, including H1N1, is becoming big,” says Sun Wenjie, a global health postdoctoral associate at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and leader of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study is based on data of flu transmission within households during a 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak in Beijing, China. The researchers focused on living conditions and behavior that can influence the spread of flu among members of a household. The results suggest health education can be a significant factor in preventing the flu from spreading.
Households with generally higher levels of education tended to have lower H1N1 transmission rates between members, as these households more frequently ventilated living areas and residents washed their hands more often.
The researchers compared rates of flu transmission within 54 case households, in which there was a self-quarantined index patient (the first case identified within the group) as well as a secondary case, to disease transmission in 108 control households, each with a self-quarantined first patient and another family member in close contact.
Household density plays a significant role in spreading flu, concluded the researchers. Compared to close contacts living in a single room, the risk of infection of those sharing a room with the index patient was 3.29 times greater, according to the study.
“H1N1 is a respiratory disease and is easily transferred through close contact, and contaminated hands can serve as vehicles of transmission of upper-respiratory illness,” says Wenjie. “On these grounds, strengthening public health education and promotion of proper personal hygiene practices may have a positive impact on prevention of pandemic H1N1 flu.”
Study: Tulane University