• Open Access

The epidemiological and public health research response to 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1): experiences from Hong Kong


Benjamin J. Cowling, School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Units 624-7, Cyberport 3, Pokfulam, Hong Kong. E-mail: bcowling@hku.hk


In recent years, Hong Kong has invested in research infrastructure to appropriately respond to novel infectious disease epidemics. Research from Hong Kong made a strong contribution to the international response to the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic (pH1N1). Summarizing, describing, and reviewing Hong Kong’s response to the 2009 pandemic, this article aimed to identify key elements of a real-time research response. A systematic search in PubMed and EMBASE for research into the infection dynamics and natural history, impact, or control of pH1N1 in Hong Kong. Eligible articles were analyzed according to their scope. Fifty-five articles were included in the review. Transmissibility of pH1N1 was similar in Hong Kong to elsewhere, and only a small fraction of infections were associated with severe disease. School closures were effective in reducing pH1N1 transmission, oseltamivir was effective for treatment of severe cases while convalescent plasma therapy has the potential to mitigate future pandemics. There was a rapid and comprehensive research response to pH1N1 in Hong Kong, providing important information on the epidemiology of the novel virus with relevance internationally as well as locally. The scientific knowledge gained through these detailed studies of pH1N1 is now being used to revise and update pandemic plans. The experiences of the research response in Hong Kong could provide a template for the research response to future emerging and reemerging disease epidemics.