Victoria was the first state in Australia to experience community transmission of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09. We undertook a descriptive epidemiological analysis of the first 1,000 notified cases to describe the epidemic associated with school children and explore implications for school closure and antiviral distribution policy in revised pandemic plans.
Records of the first 1,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 notified to the Victorian Government Department of Health between 20 May and 5 June 2009 were extracted from the state’s notifiable infectious diseases database. Descriptive analyses were conducted on case demographics, symptoms, case treatment, prophylaxis of contacts and distribution of cases in schools.
Two-thirds of the first 1,000 cases were school-aged (5–17 years) with cases in 203 schools, particularly along the north and western peripheries of the metropolitan area. Cases in one school accounted for nearly 8% of all cases but the school was not closed until nine days after symptom onset of the first identified case. Amongst all cases, cough (85%) was the most commonly reported symptom followed by fever (68%) although this was significantly higher in primary school children (76%). The risk of hospitalisation was 2%. The median time between illness onset and notification of laboratory confirmation was four days, with only 10% of cases notified within two days of onset and thus eligible for oseltamivir treatment. Nearly 6,000 contacts were followed up for prophylaxis.
With a generally mild clinical course and widespread transmission before its detection, limited and short-term school closures appeared to have minimal impact on influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 transmission. Antiviral treatment could rarely be delivered to cases within 48 hours of symptom onset. These scenarios and lessons learned from them need to be incorporated into revisions of pandemic plans.