Researchers: Stay At Home, Practice ‘Social Distancing’ This Flu Season

Researchers from the University of California-Davis say that if you want to avoid catching the flu this season, you should practice “social distancing,” or in other words, just stay at home. As Inquisitr previously reported, a CDC report found that this year, the flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective, because it only reduces a person’s risk of visiting a doctor for a flu infection by 23 percent. Most of this years H3N2 flu viruses are “drift variants,” leaving the seasonal vaccination this year less than effective at preventing the flu. The CDC advised all Americans at high risk of flu complications, like babies and the elderly, to seek additional prevention against the flu.

Michael Springborn, from UC-Davis, says that one of the easiest ways to protect ourselves from the flu is simply to practice what he calls “social distancing.” He says that this non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) is highly effective at preventing the flu from spreading. His team’s research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Medical News Today explained how the researchers came to believe that social distancing can be an effective tool for combating flu infection during an outbreak.

“To reach their conclusion, Springborn and his team assessed data on home television viewing during the 2009 swine flu outbreak in Mexico City. According to Springborn, television viewing data ‘highly correlates with time spent in the home,’ so it is a good measure of social interaction.”

“In an attempt to contain the outbreak, caused by the A/H1N1 virus, the Mexican government adopted social distancing measures, which involved school, shop, museum and theater closures, as well as ordering people to stop kissing and shaking hands.”

“Using the television viewing data, the team assessed the effectiveness of social distancing controls in reducing the spread of flu.”

The research team said that people with higher socioeconomic status were more likely to adhere to social distancing practices.

“If this hypothesis were tested and verified, it would suggest the potential for targeting of social distancing policies to facilitate self-protective measures for low socioeconomic level individuals.”

The team said that implementing social distancing practices during that flu outbreak was highly effective and clearly affected the course of the flu that season.

“Results suggest that A/H1N1 had an innate transmission potential greater than previously thought but this was masked by behavioral responses. Observed differences in behavioral response across demographic groups indicate a potential benefit from targeting social distancing outreach efforts.”

When no behaviors indicating social distancing were practiced, the research indicated that the “projected path of new cases increased sharply, more than quadrupling” within 41 days. When behavior indicative of social distancing was doubled, new flu case projections were cut in half.

If this research is correct, practicing social distancing could end up being significantly more effective than this year’s flu vaccine is. Still, the authors note several limitations of their study and called for more research into NPIs to be completed. Aside from social distancing, the UC-Davis team noted that hand washing and the use of face masks was also effective at limiting flu transmission.

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