School closure is one of the most common interventions in the early weeks of an influenza pandemic. Few studies have investigated social contact patterns and compared individual student contact characteristics during the school term and holiday periods in Taiwan. Here, we conducted a well-used questionnaire survey in a junior high school (grades 7–8) in June 2013. All 150 diary-based effective questionnaires covering conversation and skin-to-skin contact behaviour were surveyed. Two questionnaires for each participant were designed to investigate the individual-level difference of contact numbers per day during the two periods. The questionnaire response rate was 44%. The average number of contacts during term time (20·0 contacts per day) and holiday periods (12·6 contacts per day) were significantly different (P < 0·05). The dominant contact frequencies and duration were everyday contact (89·10%) and contacts lasting less than 5 minutes (37·09%). The greatest differences occurred within the 13–19 years age groups. The result presented in this study provide an indication of the likely reduction in daily contact frequency that might occur if a school closure policy was adopted in the event of an influenza pandemic in Taiwan. Comparing contact patterns during term time and holiday periods, the number of contacts decreased by 40%. This study is the first research to investigate the contact numbers and contact characteristics for school-age children during the school term and a holiday period in Taiwan. With regard to public health, this study could provide the basic contact information and database for modelling influenza epidemics for minimizing the spread of influenza that depends on personal contacts for transmission.
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