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Influenza and other respiratory viral infections associated with absence from school among schoolchildren in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: a cohort study

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  • J.M. Read
  • S. Zimmer
  • Jr. Vukotich C.
  • M.L. Schweizer
  • D. Galloway
  • C. Lingle
  • G. Yearwood
  • P. Calderone
  • E. Noble
  • T. Quadelacy
  • K. Grantz
  • C. Rinaldo
  • H. Gao
  • J. Rainey
  • A. Uzicanin
  • D.A.T. Cummings
Article number291
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>22/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>BMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Information on the etiology and age-specific burden of respiratory viral infections among school-aged children remains limited. Though school aged children are often recognized as driving the transmission of influenza as well as other respiratory viruses, little detailed information is available on the distribution of respiratory infections among children of different ages within this group. Factors other than age including gender and time spent in school may also be important in determining risk of infection but have been little studied in this age group. Methods: We conducted a cohort study to determine the etiology of influenza like illness (ILI) among 2519 K–12 students during the 2012–13 influenza season. We obtained nasal swabs from students with ILI-related absences. Generalized linear mixed-effect regressions determined associations of outcomes, including ILI and laboratory-confirmed respiratory virus infection, with school grade and other covariates. Results: Overall, 459 swabs were obtained from 552 ILI–related absences. Respiratory viruses were found in 292 (63.6%) samples. Influenza was found in 189 (41.2%) samples. With influenza B found in 134 (70.9%). Rates of influenza B were significantly higher in grades 1 (10.1, 95% CI 6.8–14.4%), 2 (9.7, 6.6–13.6%), 3 (9.3, 6.3–13.2%), and 4 (9.9, 6.8–13.8%) than in kindergarteners (3.2, 1.5–6.0%). After accounting for grade, sex and self-reported vaccination status, influenza B infection risk was lower among kindergarteners in half-day programs compared to kindergarteners in full-day programs (OR = 0.19; 95% CI 0.08–0.45). Conclusions: ILI and influenza infection is concentrated in younger schoolchildren. Reduced infection by respiratory viruses is associated with a truncated school day for kindergarteners but this finding requires further investigation in other grades and populations.