Contact, travel, and transmission: The impact of winter holidays on influenza dynamics in the United States

Anne Ewing, Elizabeth C. Lee, Cécile Viboud, Shweta Bansal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The seasonality of influenza is thought to vary according to environmental factors and human behavior. During winter holidays, potential disease-causing contact and travel deviate from typical patterns. We aim to understand these changes on age-specific and spatial influenza transmission. Methods. We characterized the changes to transmission and epidemic trajectories among children and adults in a spatial context before, during, and after the winter holidays among aggregated physician medical claims in the United States from 2001 to 2009 and among synthetic data simulated from a deterministic, age-specific spatial metapopulation model. Results. Winter holidays reduced influenza transmission and delayed the trajectory of influenza season epidemics. The holiday period was marked by a shift in the relative risk of disease from children toward adults. Model results indicated that holidays delayed epidemic peaks and synchronized incidence across locations, and that contact reductions from school closures, rather than age-specific mixing and travel, produced these observed holiday influenza dynamics. Conclusions. Winter holidays delay seasonal influenza epidemic peaks and shift disease risk toward adults because of changes in contact patterns. These findings may inform targeted influenza information and vaccination campaigns during holiday periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)732-739
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Age patterns
  • Epidemiology
  • Influenza
  • Travel patterns
  • United States
  • Winter holidays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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