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Researcher Selected to Evaluate a Pandemic Flu Intervention


LOWELL ߝ The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named Donald Milton, Professor of Work Environment, the researcher who will evaluate the use of masks in prevention of the spread of pandemic flu. UMass Lowell will receive about $550,000 for Milton’s work over the next two years.

Together with researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Milton will study how influenza spreads by looking at what kinds of aerosols are generated by those who have the flu. UMass Lowell’s student health services will assist in the project by identifying flu patients, as will Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell.

Milton’s team will investigate whether or not flu patients wearing masks can protect the general public from its spread. “We know pretty well that surgical masks do not protect you from someone who has influenza. But masks might work if the person who has influenza wears it,” says Milton.

With the development of a vaccine against a pandemic flu strain, such as bird flu, expected to take several months, the CDC has put $5.2 million into studying eight different non-pharmaceutical ways to prevent its spread.  The awards to the eight researchers -- five from universities and research institutes across the U.S., one from New Zealand and another from Hong Kong -- are aimed at scientifically evaluating those methods. The CDC’s October 9 press release follows.

UMass Lowell, , a comprehensive university with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, offers its 11,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education.

Press Release

October 9, 2006
Contact: Jennifer Morcone
CDC Announces $5.2 Million in Awards to Evaluate
Pandemic Influenza Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced $5.2 million in new cooperative agreements designed to evaluate the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions against pandemic influenza. 

Non-pharmaceutical interventions are public health measures aimed at reducing the spread of disease.  For pandemic influenza, examples include community-level infection control measures such as hand hygiene, cough etiquette and mask use, social distancing strategies, including closure of schools or workplaces and canceling large public gatherings, and voluntary isolation of cases and voluntary quarantine of household contacts. 

“While we can’t predict the severity of an influenza pandemic before it begins, our ability to mount an effective response will depend on how well communities and nations can take steps to reduce spread of disease,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC Director. “To do this most effectively, our challenge now is to determine which community-level measures will work best to limit the spread of infection.”

Because it will take several months for production of a vaccine against a pandemic strain, non-pharmaceutical interventions may help reduce or delay the spread of disease.  However, little scientific research exists on the effectiveness and potential impact of non-pharmaceutical strategies. Assumptions are largely based on observational anecdotes from previous influenza pandemics and seasonal outbreaks of influenza.  

These studies are designed to identify optimal public health interventions which, alone or in combination, may be implemented during WHO pandemic phases 4, 5, and 6 to reduce or contain the spread of pandemic influenza.

Listed below are titles of the studies, along with the names of the principal investigators and their institutions.

Effectiveness of Selective Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions in Reducing Influenza-Like Illness Among University Students
Thomas Aragon, M.D., University of California, Berkeley, CA  

Pittsburgh Influenza Prevention Project
Donald Burke, M.D., University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza
Scott Holmberg, M.D., Research Triangle Institute, Atlanta, GA 

A Controlled Trial of Masks and Hand Hygiene for Reducing Influenza Transmission
Gabriel Leung, M.D. University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Reducing Transmission of Influenza by Face Masks
Arnold Monto, M.D. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 

Stopping Upper Respiratory Infections and Influenza in the Family: The Stuffy Trial
Elaine Larson, Ph. D. Columbia University, New York, NY

Pandemic Influenza Control at the Borders of Island Countries and in Households
Michael Baker, M.D. University of Otago, Otago, New Zealand 

Evaluation of Masks as a Source Control Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention
Donald Milton, M.D. Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA


For more information, contact or 978-934-3224