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Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2015 Nov;9(6):308-314. doi: 10.1111/irv.12345.

Elevated transmission of upper respiratory illness among new recruits in military barracks in Thailand.

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Department of Virology, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.
Phramongkutklao Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand.
Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.



New recruits within military barracks present conditions favorable for the spread of respiratory pathogens. However, respiratory pathogen transmission in such confined settings in the tropics has not been well studied.


Recruits in four successive Royal Thai Army basic training classes living in military barracks were monitored for the symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) or upper respiratory illness (URI). Classes 1 and 2 were also monitored after basic training. Nasal/throat swabs from acute illnesses were collected and tested by influenza RT-PCR (all four classes). In addition, class 1 had multiplex PCR performed along with the analysis of bed locations within the barracks.


Influenza-like illness/upper respiratory illness rates ranged from 4·7 to 6·9 per 100 recruit-weeks in the four classes and generally decreased during the course of basic training (P < 0·05 in three of four classes). Rates during basic training were 1·7 (95% CI: 1·29, 2·29) and 2·5 (95% CI: 1·5, 4·1) times higher than after basic training (classes 1 and 2, respectively). In class 1, coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, and rhinovirus were the most commonly identified respiratory pathogens; only one influenza PCR-positive infection was detected in all four classes. Bed locations of URI/ILI cases in class 1 tended to be in closer proximity to each other.


Basic training recruits in military barracks in the tropics had high rates of acute respiratory illnesses with illness patterns consistent with external seeding followed by substantial internal transmission. Our findings may contribute to control measures in similar confined settings both within and outside the military.


Human; Thailand; military; respiratory tract infections; transmission

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