It is widely believed that protecting health care facilities against outbreaks of pandemic influenza requires pharmaceutical resources such as antivirals and vaccines. However, early in a pandemic, vaccines will not likely be available and antivirals will probably be of limited supply. The containment of pandemic influenza within acute-care hospitals anywhere is problematic because of open connections with communities. However, other health care institutions, especially those providing care for the disabled, can potentially control community access. We modeled a residential care facility by using a stochastic compartmental model to address the question of whether conditions exist under which nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) alone might prevent the introduction of a pandemic virus. The model projected that with currently recommended staff–visitor interactions and social distancing practices, virus introductions are inevitable in all pandemics, accompanied by rapid internal propagation. The model identified staff reentry as the critical pathway of contagion, and provided estimates of the reduction in risk required to minimize the probability of a virus introduction. By using information on latency for historical and candidate pandemic viruses, we developed NPIs that simulated notions of protective isolation for staff away from the facility that reduced the probability of bringing the pandemic infection back to the facility to levels providing protection over a large range of projected pandemic severities. The proposed form of protective isolation was evaluated for social plausibility by collaborators who operate residential facilities. It appears unavoidable that NPI combinations effective against pandemics more severe than mild imply social disruption that increases with severity.
M. Nuño, T. A. Reichert, G. Chowell, and A. B. Gumel Protecting residential care facilities from pandemic influenza PNAS 2008 105 (30) 10625-10630; published ahead of print July 22, 2008, doi:10.1073/pnas.0712014105