Despite its prevalence, our knowledge about how influenza is transmitted from one person to the next is based more on supposition, than science. We honestly don't know how well facemasks or social distancing will work to prevent the spread of the virus.
Researchers in the UK are about to begin a bold experiment where they hope to answer some of these questions.
They plan to recruit volunteers to live for a week under a microscope in a series of controlled `Big Brother' style environments - where they will introduce a mild influenza virus (H3N2) into the population in order to see how it spreads.
Volunteers will be paid roughly £3,000 ($4,592) for the week long study.
This from The Financial Times.
By Andrew Jack
Published: December 1 2008 02:47
British researchers plan to recruit 200 volunteers to be infected with flu while living together during week-long experiments, in order to deepen understanding of how to tackle a pandemic.
In a groundbreaking Big Brother-style trial, recruits will be divided into groups of half a dozen. They will spend their time sleeping, eating and socialising in specially adapted hotels under constant camera observation and medical supervision.
The aim is to gather information on how and how easily they contract flu from each other and the effectiveness of hand washing, face masks and keeping their distance to prevent infection.
Jonathan Van-Tam, professor of health protection at the University of Nottingham, who is helping develop the trials, said the studies reflected how much remains unknown about flu transmission, nearly two centuries after medical journals began discussing the issue.
“Transmission is poorly understood and hotly debated,” he said. Disagreement remained on such as whether flu was contracted by airborne particles or via surfaces touched by hand.