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Open Access Research article

Small islands and pandemic influenza: Potential benefits and limitations of travel volume reduction as a border control measure

Martin Eichner1, Markus Schwehm2, Nick Wilson3* and Michael G Baker3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Biometry, University of Tübingen, Germany

2 ExploSYS GmbH, Institute for Explorative Modeling, Leinfelden, Germany

3 Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-160

Published: 29 September 2009

Abstract

Background

Some island nations have explicit components of their influenza pandemic plans for providing travel warnings and restricting incoming travellers. But the potential value of such restrictions has not been quantified.

Methods

We developed a probabilistic model and used parameters from a published model (i.e., InfluSim) and travel data from Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs).

Results

The results indicate that of the 17 PICTs with travel data, only six would be likely to escape a major pandemic with a viral strain of relatively low contagiousness (i.e., for R0 = 1.5) even when imposing very tight travel volume reductions of 99% throughout the course of the pandemic. For a more contagious viral strain (R0 = 2.25) only five PICTs would have a probability of over 50% to escape. The total number of travellers during the pandemic must not exceed 115 (for R0 = 3.0) or 380 (for R0 = 1.5) if a PICT aims to keep the probability of pandemic arrival below 50%.

Conclusion

These results suggest that relatively few island nations could successfully rely on intensive travel volume restrictions alone to avoid the arrival of pandemic influenza (or subsequent waves). Therefore most island nations may need to plan for multiple additional interventions (e.g., screening and quarantine) to raise the probability of remaining pandemic free or achieving substantial delay in pandemic arrival.