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Estimating the frequency and characteristics of respiratory disease outbreaks at mass gatherings in the United States: Findings from a state and local health department assessment.

Estimating the frequency and characteristics of respiratory disease outbreaks at mass gatherings in the United States: Findings from a state and local health department assessment.
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Figueroa A, Gulati RK, Rainey JJ,


Figueroa A, Gulati RK, Rainey JJ, (click to view)

Figueroa A, Gulati RK, Rainey JJ,

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PloS one 2017 10 2712(10) e0186730 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0186730
Abstract

Mass gatherings create environments conducive to the transmission of infectious diseases. Thousands of mass gatherings are held annually in the United States; however, information on the frequency and characteristics of respiratory disease outbreaks and on the use of nonpharmaceutical interventions at these gatherings is scarce. We administered an online assessment to the 50 state health departments and 31 large local health departments in the United States to gather information about mass gathering-related respiratory disease outbreaks occurring between 2009 and 2014. The assessment also captured information on the use of nonpharmaceutical interventions to slow disease transmission in these settings. We downloaded respondent data into a SAS dataset for descriptive analyses. We received responses from 43 (53%) of the 81 health jurisdictions. Among these, 8 reported 18 mass gathering outbreaks. More than half (n = 11) of the outbreaks involved zoonotic transmission of influenza A (H3N2v) at county and state fairs. Other outbreaks occurred at camps (influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 [n = 2] and A (H3) [n = 1]), religious gatherings (influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 [n = 1] and unspecified respiratory virus [n = 1]), at a conference (influenza A (H1N1)pdm09), and a sporting event (influenza A). Outbreaks ranged from 5 to 150 reported cases. Of the 43 respondents, 9 jurisdictions used nonpharmaceutical interventions to slow or prevent disease transmission. Although respiratory disease outbreaks with a large number of cases occur at many types of mass gatherings, our assessment suggests that such outbreaks may be uncommon, even during the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, which partially explains the reported, but limited, use of nonpharmaceutical interventions. More research on the characteristics of mass gatherings with respiratory disease outbreaks and effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical interventions would likely be beneficial for decision makers at state and local health departments when responding to future outbreaks and pandemics.

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