Background: As Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza spreads around the globe, it strikes school-age children more often than adults. Although there is some evidence of pre-existing immunity among older adults, this alone may not explain the significant gap in age-specific infection rates. Methods & Findings: Based on a retrospective analysis of pandemic strains of influenza from the last century, we show that school-age children typically experience the highest attack rates in primarily naive populations, with the burden shifting to adults during the subsequent season. Using a parsimonious network-based mathematical model which incorporates the changing distribution of contacts in the susceptible population, we demonstrate that new pandemic strains of influenza are expected to shift the epidemiological landscape in exactly this way. Conclusions: Our results provide a simple demographic explanation for the age bias observed for H1N1/09 attack rates, and a prediction that this bias will shift in coming months. These results also have significant implications for the allocation of public health resources including vaccine distribution policies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)