Study shows that closing schools, other measures limited H1N1 spread in Mexico

May 24, 2011

Schools were closed, restaurants shuttered and large public gatherings cancelled.

The H1N1 virus was new, and most of the cases occurred among young people. Health professionals and scientists weren’t sure at the onset what the world would encounter with the virus. Download Full Image

Social distancing measures were enacted in Mexico where the pandemic affected different geographical areas of the country during three distinct waves. During the spring of 2009 when the virus affected the Mexico City area, officials choose to take measures to limit the virus’ spread including cancelling large gatherings like soccer games.

New evidence suggests that these measures were effective, according to a new study led by ASU assistant professor Gerardo Chowell-Puente, an investigator for the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health and an assistant professor in the Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

The study provides the first comprehensive epidemiological description of the age, geographical and severity pattern of the 2009 pandemic in Mexico. Results of the study will be published in PloS Medicine.

“The interesting finding is that school closures and other social distancing measures during the first wave were associated with a reduction in the transmission rate by approximately 29 to 37 percent,” Chowell said. “That is a significant change for a rapidly disseminating pandemic virus.” Approximately 1,500 deaths were directly attributed to H1N1 flu in Mexico during 2009, he added.

In addition, hospitalization rates declined from about 70 percent to 10 percent during the period when schools closed and other social distancing measures enacted. Results of the study were calculated by applying mathematical modeling to influenza surveillance data compiled by the Mexican Social Security Institute, a medical system representing 40 percent of the population.

“We found a significant effect from the social distancing interventions that could help mitigate the impact of future pandemics by relieving the burden on hospitals,” Chowell said. “The peak of the pandemic could be pushed farther away so that health officials can prepare with pharmaceuticals and anti-virals. A vaccine could potentially be developed during that time.”

More young people were affected by the H1N1 virus since older people had some immunity after a similar strain circulated years ago.

“There were a significant number of young people with severe respiratory disease particularly during the early pandemic phase,” Chowell said.

Researchers also examined how the virus spread spatially, identifying three H1N1 waves with the first cases primarily around the Mexico City metropolis in spring of 2009 and the second summer wave in southeastern Mexico. The third wave was more widespread throughout the country and coincided with the start of school during the fall.

Findings from the study have implications for improving preparedness plans in future pandemics, said Chowell, who noted that in a previous pandemic in the 19th century, the majority of deaths occurred two years after the initial wave.

“We must remain vigilant and continue to monitor the circulation and health burden of this flu virus in the coming years,” he added.

The study is a collaborative effort by Fogarty International Center (the international component of the National Institutes of Health), Arizona State University and colleagues at the Mexican Institute for Social Security.

Sun Card operations relocate at Polytechnic, West campuses

May 24, 2011

As of May 23, Sun Card operations on the Polytechnic and West campuses moved to each campus' respective Parking and Transit Services office.

This means Sun Devils on the Polytechnic campus who need to obtain or replace a Sun Card can now visit Quad">"... 4 of the Quads, while West campus students and employees can stop by the Welcome">">Welcome and Information Building on University Way North. Sun Card services at the Polytechnic and West campuses are available from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Download Full Image

All Sun Card questions and transactions can be handled at the Polytechnic and West campus PTS offices with the exception of adding Sun Dollars in-person. Money can be added to Sun Dollar accounts through Cash-to-Card machines located on the Polytechnic campus in the Academic"> Center (First Floor) and on the West campus in Fletcher">">Flet... Library. As always, Sun Dollars can also be added online or through a mail deposit. View this">">this webpage for more information about how to add Sun Dollars.

There is no change to the locations of the Sun Card office on the Downtown Phoenix or Tempe campuses; Sun Card is housed in the University Center Building, Suite 120, at the Downtown Phoenix campus, and in the Memorial Union’s Union Station, Suite L-58, on the Tempe campus. Office hours at Tempe and DPC are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday.

Like Sun Card, Parking and Transit Services is an ASU University Business Services department. PTS looks forward to assisting its UBS partner in serving their customers. Contact Sun">">Sun Card with any questions.

Communications specialist, ASU Parking and Transit Services