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Transmissibility of 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) in New Zealand: effective reproduction number and influence of age, ethnicity and importations

Abstract

The first wave of pandemic influenza A(H1N1) has subsided in New Zealand as in other southern hemisphere countries. This study aimed to estimate the effective reproduction number (R) of 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) taking into account imported cases. It also aimed to show the temporal variation of R throughout the New Zealand epidemic, changes in age- and ethnicity-specific cumulative incidence, and the effect of school holidays. Using a new modelling method to account for imported cases, we have calculated the peak R during the containment phase of the pandemic as 1.55 (95% confidence interval: 1.16 to 1.86). This value is less than previously estimated in the country early in the pandemic but in line with more recent estimates in other parts of the world. Results also indicated an increase in the proportion of notifications among school-age children after the school holiday (3-19 July 2009). This finding provides support for the potential effectiveness of timely school closures, although such disruptive interventions need to be balanced against the severity of the pandemic.

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