Epidemiology and Infection

Social mixing patterns for transmission models of close contact infections: exploring self-evaluation and diary-based data collection through a web-based interface

P. BEUTELS a1a2c1, Z. SHKEDY a3, M. AERTS a3 and P. VAN DAMME a1
a1 Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium
a2 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, University of Sydney, Australia
a3 Centre for Statistics, Biostatistics, Hasselt University, Belgium

Article author query
beutels p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
shkedy z   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
aerts m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
van damme p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Although mixing patterns are crucial in dynamic transmission models of close contact infections, they are largely estimated by intuition. Using a convenience sample (n=73), we tested self-evaluation and prospective diary surveys with a web-based interface, in order to obtain social contact data. The number of recorded contacts was significantly (P<0·01) greater on workdays (18·1) vs. weekend days (12·3) for conversations, and vice versa for touching (5·4 and 7·2 respectively). Mixing was highly assortative with age for both (adults contacting other adults vs. 0- to 5-year-olds, odds ratio 8·9–10·8). Respondents shared a closed environment significantly more often with >20 other adults than with >20 children. The difference in number of contacts per day was non-significant between self-evaluation and diary (P=0·619 for conversations, P=0·125 for touching). We conclude that self-evaluation could yield similar results to diary surveys for general or very recent mixing information. More detailed data could be collected by diary, at little effort to respondents.

(Accepted March 14 2006)
(Published Online May 17 2006)

c1 Center for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium. (Email: philippe.beutels@ua.ac.be)