Background: Influenza pandemics occur when a novel influenza strain, to which humans are immunologically naive, emerges to cause infection and illness on a global scale. Differences in the viral properties of pandemic strains, relative to seasonal ones, can alter the effectiveness of interventions typically implemented to control seasonal influenza burden. As a result, annual control activities may not be sufficient to contain an influenza pandemic. Purpose: This study seeks to inform pandemic policy and planning initiatives by reviewing the effectiveness of previous interventions to reduce pandemic influenza transmission and infection. Results will inform the planning and design of more focused in-depth systematic reviews for specific types of interventions, thus providing the most comprehensive and current understanding of the potential for alternative interventions to mitigate the burden of pandemic influenza. Methods: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses examining intervention effectiveness in containing pandemic influenza transmission was conducted using information collected from five databases (PubMed, Medline, Cochrane, Embase, and Cinahl/EBSCO). Two independent reviewers conducted study screening and quality assessment, extracting data related to intervention impact and effectiveness. Results and Discussion: Most included reviews were of moderate to high quality. Although the degree of statistical heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis, the present systematic review examines the wide variety of interventions that can impact influenza transmission in different ways. While it appears that pandemic influenza vaccination provides significant protection against infection, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that antiviral prophylaxis, seasonal influenza cross-protection, or a range of non-pharmaceutical strategies would provide appreciable protection when implemented in isolation. It is likely that an optimal intervention strategy will employ a combination of interventions in a layered approach, though more research is needed to substantiate this proposition.
- All age groups
- Pregnant women