Transmissibility of swine flu at Fort Dix, 1976.


The 1976 outbreak of A/New Jersey/76 influenza in Fort Dix is a rare example of an influenza virus with documented human to human transmission that failed to spread widely. Despite extensive epidemiological investigation, no attempt has been made to quantify the transmissibility of this virus. The World Health Organization and the United States Government view containment of emerging influenza strains as central to combating pandemic influenza. Computational models predict that it may be possible to contain an emergent pandemic influenza if virus transmissibility is low. The A/New Jersey/76 outbreak at the United States Army Training Center at Fort Dix, New Jersey in January 1976 caused 13 hospitalizations, 1 death and an estimated 230 cases. To characterize viral transmission in this epidemic, we estimated the basic reproductive number and serial interval using deterministic epidemic models and stochastic simulations. We estimated the basic reproductive number for this outbreak to be 1.2 (supported interval 1.1-1.4), the serial interval to be 1.9 days (supported interval 1.6-3.8 days), and that the virus had at least six serial human to human transmissions. This places the transmissibility of A/New Jersey/76 virus at the lower end of circulating flu strains, well below the threshold for control.

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Donald Burke

Distinguished University Professor of Health Science and Policy
University of Pittsburgh