Background: A major portion of influenza disease burden during the 2009 pandemic was observed among young people.
Methods: We examined the effect of age on the transmission of influenza-like illness associated with the 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus (pH1N1) for an April-May 2009 outbreak among youth-camp participants and household contacts in Washington State.
Results: An influenza-like illness attack rate of 51% was found among 96 camp participants. We observed a cabin secondary attack rate of 42% (95% confidence interval = 21%-66%) and a camp local reproductive number of 2.7 (1.7-4.1) for influenza-like illness among children (less than 18 years old). Among the 136 contacts in the 41 households with an influenza-like illness index case who attended the camp, the influenza-like illness secondary attack rate was 11% for children (5%-21%) and 4% for adults (2%-8%). The odds ratio for influenza-like illness among children versus adults was 3.1 (1.3-7.3).
Conclusions: The strong age effect, combined with the low number of susceptible children per household (1.2), plausibly explains the lower-than-expected household secondary attack rate for influenza-like illness, illustrating the importance of other venues where children congregate for sustaining community transmission. Quantifying the effects of age on pH1N1 transmission is important for informing effective intervention strategies.