Community nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, that communities can take to help slow the spread of illness during an infectious disease outbreak, such as pandemic influenza (flu).
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu. A vaccine is available each year for seasonal flu. A flu pandemic is an outbreak caused by a new flu virus that spreads worldwide. Since it is a new virus, it may take several months for manufacturers to develop a vaccine. Experiences from past pandemics and mathematical modeling show that, when used together and early in a pandemic, NPIs can be effective in slowing the spread of flu. For example, during the 1918 flu pandemic, NPIs that were put into place early helped reduce illness and death. Similarly, during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, closing schools and canceling mass gatherings helped slow the spread of flu.
Germs like flu viruses can spread easily in places where many people are in close contact with one another, so NPIs are especially important in community settings like schools, workplaces, and mass gatherings. Community leaders can take the following actions to help slow the spread of infectious illnesses, such as pandemic flu, in community settings.
Encourage everyday preventive actions through education and the provision of supplies.
To help slow the spread of germs, encourage community members to take everyday preventive actions, such as covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands, staying home when sick, and cleaning surfaces and objects routinely. Provide enough supplies for community members, including clean and functional handwashing stations, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissues, no-touch trash cans, surgical masks, gloves, and cleaning products with labels that say “EPA-approved” for killing viruses and bacteria.
Increase space between people (social distancing).
Depending on the severity of a pandemic, community leaders may take one or more of the following actions to increase space between people.
- Close schools temporarily.
- Make sick leave policies more flexible.
- Offer telework or remote-meeting options.
- Postpone or cancel mass gatherings.
Establish and maintain relationships with community leaders.
Ongoing communication and preparedness planning between state, tribal, local, and territorial public health officials, school administrators, and business leaders is important before, during, and after a flu pandemic. Establish relationships so that if a pandemic does occur, NPIs can be communicated and implemented early to help slow the spread of flu in communities.
NPIs in Community Settings
Below are resources for state, tribal, local, and territorial public health officials, school administrators, employers, and mass gathering coordinators to help slow the spread of flu in their community settings through NPIs.