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  • A Duncan, Department of Public Health and General Practice, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • P Priest, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  • L Jennings, Canterbury Health Laboratories and Pathology Department, University of Otago
  • C Brunton, Department of Public Health and General Practice, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • M G Baker, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington , New Zealand

Funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)



Planning the response to a potential influenza pandemic requires collaboration with airlines to determine the most effective ways to manage borders to minimize importation of pandemic viruses. Our aim was to secure the collaboration of an international airline to perform a study assessing the feasibility of using a screening protocol to identify airline travelers at increased risk of influenza infection.


After extensive and lengthy negotiation, an airline agreed to collaborate on this pilot study. Five flights in 2007 were screened using a voluntary health questionnaire distributed in-flight, targeted collection of throat swabs for virological analysis, and follow-up three days after arrival.


The questionnaire response rate was 57% (357/628), with 55% (57/103) of eligibles providing a throat swab. One laboratory confirmed influenza infection was detected.
Follow-up contact was made with 75% (121/161) of those who consented.


Although protracted negotiations were required, we successfully developed a multi-sector collaboration, demonstrated the feasibility of our screening protocol, and determined the staffing levels required for a larger study to estimate the prevalence of influenza in international airline travelers.


Duncan AR, Priest PC, Jennings LC, Brunton CR, Baker MG. Screening for influenza infection in international airline travelers. American Journal of Public Health 99(S2): S360-2, 2009.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.158071

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