BACKGROUND: To guide policy and control measures, decent scientific data are needed for a comprehensive assessment of epidemiological, clinical and virological characteristics of the First Few hundred (FF100) cases. We discuss the feasibility of the FF100 approach during the 2009 pandemic and the added value compared with alternative data sources available.
METHODS: The pandemic preparedness plan enabled us to perform a case-control study, assessing patient characteristics and risk factors for experiencing symptomatic influenza A(H1N1)2009 infection and providing insight into transmission. We assessed to what extent timely and novel data were generated compared to other available data sources.
RESULTS: In May-December 2009, a total of 68 cases and 48 controls were included in the study. Underlying non-respiratory diseases were significantly more common among cases compared to controls, while a protective effect was found for frequent hand washing. Seroconversion was found for 7/30 controls (23%), and persisting high titers for 4/30 controls (13%). The labour-intensive study design resulted in slow and restricted recruitment.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings of our case-control study gave new insights in transmission risks and possible interventions for improved control. Nevertheless, the FF100 approach lacked timeliness and power due to limited recruitment. For future pandemics we suggest pooling data from several countries, to enable collecting sufficient data in a relatively short period.