Households are an important location for the transmission of communicable diseases. Social contact between household members is typically more frequent, of greater intensity, and is more likely to involve people of different age groups than contact occurring in the general community. Understanding household structure in different populations is therefore fundamental to explaining patterns of disease transmission in these populations. Indigenous populations in Australia tend to live in larger households than non-Indigenous populations, but limited data are available on the structure of these households, and how they differ between remote and urban communities. We have developed a novel approach to the collection of household structure data, suitable for use in a variety of contexts, which provides a detailed view of age, gender, androom occupancy patterns in remote and urban Australian Indigenous households. Here we report analysis of data collected using this tool, which quantifies the extent of crowding in Indigenous households, particularly in remote areas. We use these data to generate matrices of age-specific contact rates, as used by mathematical models of infectious disease transmission. To demonstrate the impact of household structure, we use a mathematical model to simulate an influenza-like illness in different populations. Our simulations suggest that outbreaks in remote populations are likely to spread more rapidly and to a greater extent than outbreaks in non-Indigenous populations.
- Communicable diseases
- Social contact