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10 Jul 2013

Inferring the causes of the three waves of the 1918 influenza pandemic in England and Wales (Proc R Soc B., abstract, edited)

[Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Inferring the causes of the three waves of the 1918 influenza pandemic in England and Wales

Daihai He 1, Jonathan Dushoff 2,3, Troy Day 5, Junling Ma 6 and David J. D. Earn 3,4

Author Affiliations: 1Department of Applied Mathematics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong (SAR), People's Republic of China 2Department of Biology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 3M.G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 4Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 5Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Queen's University, Kingston, Onario, Canada 6Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada




Past influenza pandemics appear to be characterized by multiple waves of incidence, but the mechanisms that account for this phenomenon remain unclear. We propose a simple epidemic model, which incorporates three factors that might contribute to the generation of multiple waves: (i) schools opening and closing, (ii) temperature changes during the outbreak, and (iii) changes in human behaviour in response to the outbreak. We fit this model to the reported influenza mortality during the 1918 pandemic in 334 UK administrative units and estimate the epidemiological parameters. We then use information criteria to evaluate how well these three factors explain the observed patterns of mortality. Our results indicate that all three factors are important but that behavioural responses had the largest effect. The parameter values that produce the best fit are biologically reasonable and yield epidemiological dynamics that match the observed data well.

pandemic influenza - behavioural response – weather - iterated filtering - school closure - Spanish flu

Received May 28, 2013. Accepted June 14, 2013.

© 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.