In “Close Look at a Flu Outbreak Upends Some Common Wisdom,” Nicholas Bakalar writes:
If you or your child came down with influenza during the H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak in 2009, it may not have happened the way you thought it did.
A new study of a 2009 epidemic at a school in Pennsylvania has found that children most likely did not catch it by sitting near an infected classmate, and that adults who got sick were probably not infected by their own children.
Closing the school after the epidemic was under way did little to slow the rate of transmission, the study found, and the most common way the disease spread was a through child’s network of friends.
The work he discusses is “Role of social networks in shaping disease transmission during a community outbreak of 2009
H1N1 pandemic influenza” by Simon Cauchemeza, Achuyt Bhattaraib, Tiffany L. Marchbanksc, Ryan P. Faganb, Stephen Ostroffc, Neil M. Fergusona, David Swerdlowb, and the Pennsylvania H1N1 working group.
The first thing that comes to mind is that closing schools is a best practice. It’s something that makes so much sense that it’s hard to argue against, even if it does no good. The next thing is look at what happens when they have data available to them. They can study their prescriptions and test to see if they did any good. But note how detailed the data is: social graphs, seating charts. This isn’t something we would obviously get from more detailed breach notices. It’s going to require in-depth investigations, and investigators who talk about their methods. VERIS is a step in this direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing critiques or even competitors that can help us move forward and learn.
But the data we have is the data we have, and while we work to get more, there’s a good deal that we can probably learn from what’s out there. We just have to be willing to ask if our practices really work.