The Social Life of Infants in the Context of Infectious Disease Transmission; Social Contacts and Mixing Patterns of the Very Young
Insight into how humans interact helps further understanding of the transmission of infectious diseases. For diseases such as pertussis, infants are at particular risk for severe outcomes. To understand the contact pattern of infants, especially those too young to be vaccinated, we sent contact diaries to a representative sample of 1000 mothers in the United Kingdom. We received 115 responses with a total of 758 recorded contacts. The average number of daily contacts for an infant was 6.68 overall and 5.7 for those aged ≤10 weeks. Of the latter, 2.1 (37%) contacts were with non-household members and were >15 minutes duration, suggesting that a cocooning programme may miss a substantial proportion of exposures leading to disease transmission. The least contact was between adolescents and infants. Thus the impact of adolescent (pertussis) vaccination on infants would likely be limited, unless it reduces transmission to other age groups whose contact with infants is greater.