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Epidemics. 2011 Sep;3(3-4):143-51. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 13.

What types of contacts are important for the spread of infections?: using contact survey data to explore European mixing patterns.

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Modelling and Economics Unit, Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, London, UK.


Knowledge of the determinants of infectious disease transmission is a public health priority as it allows the design of optimal control strategies for endemic or emerging infections. We analyse a detailed dataset on contact patterns across five European countries and use available serological profiles for varicella and parvovirus B19 infections to identify the types of contact that may be most relevant for transmission. We show that models informed by contact data fit well the observed serological profiles of both infections. We find that intimate types of contacts explain the pattern of acquisition of serological markers by age better than other types of social contacts. We observe similar patterns in each of the countries analysed, suggesting that there are consistent biological mechanisms at work.

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