Epidemiologic data suggest that schools and daycare facilities likely play a major role
in the dissemination of influenza. Pathogen transmission within such small, inhomogenously
mixed populations is difficult to model using traditional approaches. We developed
simulation based mathematical tool to investigate the effects of social contact networks
on pathogen dissemination in a setting analogous to a daycare center or grade school. Here
we show that interventions that decrease mixing within child care facilities, including
limiting the size of social clusters, reducing the contact frequency between social
clusters, and eliminating large gatherings, could diminish pathogen dissemination.
Moreover, these measures may amplify the effectiveness of vaccination or antiviral
prophylaxis, even if the vaccine is not uniformly effective or antiviral compliance is
incomplete. Similar considerations should apply to other small, imperfectly mixed
populations, such as offices and schools.