TL1 scholar Cuc Tran helps show immunizing schoolkids protects community against flu

Cuc Tran
Cuc Tran, Ph.D. candidate and TL1 scholar

Cuc Tran, M.P.H., a University of Florida CTSI TL1 Scholar and a Ph.D. candidate in the department of environmental and global health in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, is lead author in a study recently published in the journal PLOS ONE showing that immunizing school-aged children from flu can protect other parts of the community too.

Tran assembled a research team of epidemiologists, mathematical modelers, pediatricians, nurses and others to confirm that flu immunization of school-aged children protects other segments of the population as predicted by mathematical models. The study examined data from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 flu seasons and found that when half of 5- to 17-year-olds in Alachua County were vaccinated through the school-based Control Flu program:

  • The entire age group’s flu rate decreased by 79 percent.
  • The rate of influenza-like illness among 0- to 4-year-olds decreased 89 percent, despite the fact that they were not part of the vaccination program.
  • Influenza-like illness decreased by 60 percent among all non-school-aged residents.

This research can help communities decide how to effectively allocate funding, vaccine doses and communication campaigns to protect the most people from the flu. Thousands of Americans die as a result of the flu every year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate an annual cost of $10.4 billion in hospitalizations and outpatient visits related to flu. The U.S. loses 38 million school days per year to the flu, and as this study shows, decreasing flu rates among students can benefit others as well.

“The effect of school-based vaccination was profound, both on the students and on the community,” said Tran, who will begin a prestigious postdoctoral position with the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July 2015.

Tran collaborated with experts from UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, Emerging Pathogens Institute, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy. Parker Small Jr., M.D., co-founded the Control Flu program and is a pediatrician and professor emeritus in UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. J. Glenn Morris, M.D., M.P.H., director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, and Juliet Pulliam, Ph.D., in the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, serve as Tran’s TL1 mentors.

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