Objective: The focus of this study was to ascertain the factors associated with 2009 pandemic influenza H1N1 (pH1N1) infection during different phases of the epidemic. Methods: In central Taiwan, 306 persons from households with schoolchildren were followed sequentially and serum samples were taken at three sampling time-points starting in the fall of 2008, shortly after influenza vaccination. Participants who seroconverted between two consecutive blood samplings were considered as having serological evidence of infection. A generalized estimation equation (GEE) with a logistic link to account for household correlations was applied to identify factors associated with pH1N1 infections during the pre-epidemic (April-June) and epidemic (September-October) periods. Results: The results showed that receiving an inactivated seasonal influenza vaccine (ISIV) and having a hemagglutination inhibition assay (HI) titer of 40 or higher resulted in a significantly lower likelihood of pH1N1 infection during the pre-epidemic period only, for both children and adults (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 0.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.12-0.9). Having a previous infection by pH1N1 with a baseline titer of 20 or higher resulted in a significantly lower likelihood of infection by pH1N1 during the epidemic period (adjusted OR 0.06, 95% CI 0.02-0.16). Conclusions: Our results provide the first serological evidence to suggest a protection effect from receiving an ISIV against pH1N1 infection only when the HI titer reaches 40 or higher during the pre-epidemic period. This study gives an important insight into the control and intervention measures required for preventing infections during future influenza epidemics.
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