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Social contact patterns relevant to the spread of respiratory infectious diseases in Hong Kong.

Abstract

The spread of many respiratory infections is determined by contact patterns between infectious and susceptible individuals in the population. There are no published data for quantifying social contact patterns relevant to the spread of respiratory infectious diseases in Hong Kong which is a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases due to its high population density and connectivity in the air transportation network. We adopted a commonly used diary-based design to conduct a social contact survey in Hong Kong in 2015/16 using both paper and online questionnaires. Participants using paper questionnaires reported more contacts and longer contact duration than those using online questionnaires. Participants reported 13 person-hours of contact and 8 contacts per day on average, which decreased over age but increased with household size, years of education and income level. Prolonged and frequent contacts, and contacts at home, school and work were more likely to involve physical contacts. Strong age-assortativity was observed in all age groups. We evaluated the characteristics of social contact patterns relevant to the spread of respiratory infectious diseases in Hong Kong. Our findings could help to improve the design of future social contact surveys, parameterize transmission models of respiratory infectious diseases, and inform intervention strategies based on model outputs.

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