A new study by the Kansas State University EpiCenter research team has found that rural areas can get ahead of an epidemic of disease such as H1N1 by targeting vaccines to the people most like to spread the disease – those who have a high rate of contact with other people.
The team created a contact network model based on information collected by surveys of residents in Clay County both in person and by mail. The survey had a response rate of 65%.
The study found that random vaccine distribution in selected popular locations reaches the people who play the largest roles in spreading a communicable disease. Simulations showed that if only 10% of the sampled population is vaccinated, the the epidemic size is reduced by 34.5%.
The survey identified four risk factors for epidemic spread: health risk to people with existing conditions; contact risk, prevention risk to people who have not been vaccinated and compliance risk to people who continue social contacts even during an epidemic.
All of the people in categories tended to overlap, with the same people at high risk in more than one category.
Next, the researchers will do a similar project in Chanute and Neosho County. That study will take a more zoonotic approach, asking questions about contact with domestic animals, livestock and wildlife."
"The survey also delves more deeply into respondents' health, asking if they got a flu shot and if they take supplements like zinc and vitamin D to see if there are any correlations in flu prevention," Schumm said. "The surveys are also finding out what time of day people are most likely to visit the community's most popular locations and how many people they come in close contact with there."
Results are expected in about a year.