Background: As of June 11, 2009, a total of 17,855 probable or confirmed cases of 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) had been reported in the United States. Risk factors for transmission remain largely uncharacterized. We characterize the risk factors and describe the transmission of the virus within households.
Methods: Probable and confirmed cases of infection with the 2009 H1N1 virus in the United States were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the use of a standardized case form. We investigated transmission of infection in 216 households--including 216 index patients and their 600 household contacts--in which the index patient was the first case patient and complete information on symptoms and age was available for all household members.
Results: An acute respiratory illness developed in 78 of 600 household contacts (13%). In 156 households (72% of the 216 households), an acute respiratory illness developed in none of the household contacts; in 46 households (21%), illness developed in one contact; and in 14 households (6%), illness developed in more than one contact. The proportion of household contacts in whom acute respiratory illness developed decreased with the size of the household, from 28% in two-member households to 9% in six-member households. Household contacts 18 years of age or younger were twice as susceptible as those 19 to 50 years of age (relative susceptibility, 1.96; Bayesian 95% credible interval, 1.05 to 3.78; P=0.005), and household contacts older than 50 years of age were less susceptible than those who were 19 to 50 years of age (relative susceptibility, 0.17; 95% credible interval, 0.02 to 0.92; P=0.03). Infectivity did not vary with age. The mean time between the onset of symptoms in a case patient and the onset of symptoms in the household contacts infected by that patient was 2.6 days (95% credible interval, 2.2 to 3.5).
Conclusions: The transmissibility of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus in households is lower than that seen in past pandemics. Most transmissions occur soon before or after the onset of symptoms in a case patient.
2009 Massachusetts Medical Society