The US government proposes pandemic influenza mitigation guidance that includes isolation and antiviral treatment of ill persons, voluntary household member quarantine and antiviral prophylaxis, social distancing of individuals, school closure, reduction of contacts at work, and prioritized vaccination. Is this the best strategy combination? Is choice of this strategy robust to pandemic uncertainties? What are critical enablers of community resilience?
We systematically simulate a broad range of pandemic scenarios and mitigation strategies using a networked, agent-based model of a community of explicit, multiply-overlapping social contact networks. We evaluate illness and societal burden for alterations in social networks, illness parameters, or intervention implementation. For a 1918-like pandemic, the best strategy minimizes illness to <1% of the population and combines network-based (e.g. school closure, social distancing of all with adults' contacts at work reduced), and case-based measures (e.g. antiviral treatment of the ill and prophylaxis of household members). We find choice of this best strategy robust to removal of enhanced transmission by the young, additional complexity in contact networks, and altered influenza natural history including extended viral shedding. Administration of age-group or randomly targeted 50% effective pre-pandemic vaccine with 7% population coverage (current US H5N1 vaccine stockpile) had minimal effect on outcomes. In order, mitigation success depends on rapid strategy implementation, high compliance, regional mitigation, and rigorous rescinding criteria; these are the critical enablers for community resilience.
Systematic evaluation of feasible, recommended pandemic influenza interventions generally confirms the US community mitigation guidance yields best strategy choices for pandemic planning that are robust to a wide range of uncertainty. The best strategy combines network- and case-based interventions; network-based interventions are paramount. Because strategies must be applied rapidly, regionally, and stringently for greatest benefit, preparation and public education is required for long-lasting, high community compliance during a pandemic.