Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine to what extent school-aged children can learn hygiene-based nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and persist in these behavioral changes over the duration of an influenza season. If this can be done successfully, it may be a preferable pandemic mitigation strategy to much more disruptive strategies such as whole-scale school closure.
Methods: The Pittsburgh Influenza Prevention Project (PIPP) is a prospective, controlled, randomized trial of the effectiveness of a suite of hygiene-based NPIs in controlling influenza and related illnesses in elementary schools in the City of Pittsburgh. During the 2007-08 school year, the project measured adoption of NPIs by students in five elementary schools through surveys of home-room teachers before, during, and after influenza season.
Results: Results showed highly statistically significant improvement in students' daily practice of nearly all of the NPIs, including hand washing and sanitizer use and covering coughs and sneezes.
Conclusions: The study provides evidence that children can learn, implement, and persist in the behaviors of a multilayered suite of NPIs over a typical flu season. These results will be useful to public health policy makers and practitioners considering methods of infectious disease prevention in school-based settings.