The ORegon CHild Absenteeism due to Respiratory Disease Study (ORCHARDS) received an extension/expansion grant from the CDC totaling $3 million over the next three years. Jonathan Temte, MD, PhD, MS, a DFMCH physician and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health associate dean for public health and community engagement, and Research Program Manager Shari Barlow, will lead the study.


From left: The ORCHARDS III study will be led by Jonathan Temte, MD, PhD, MS, and Research Program Coordinator Shari Barlow.

ORCHARDS is a public health cold and influenza study launched in 2013 that involves cold and flu monitoring in K-12 students in the Oregon School District in Wisconsin. The initial phase of the study identified the viruses causing illness, including influenza, to determine how these respiratory illnesses affect school absences. A $2.4 million grant in 2017 allowed Temte and his team to investigate how virus transmission occurs within households by focusing on the role school children play in introducing acute respiratory viruses to the family. The additional $3 million award will support the goals of creating and evaluating a surveillance system for influenza and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19) absenteeism in K-12 schools and describe transmission within households from which a school-aged child has a laboratory-confirmed case.

“The extension of ORCHARDS allows us to document how viruses respond as children return to the school setting, the effects of relaxation of public health measures on a wide variety of respiratory viruses, and the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in the late pandemic and early post-pandemic time frames,” said Temte.“This period is critical in understanding how to better respond to respiratory viruses in our schools and communities.”

In the United States, almost 360,000 people died from influenza between 2010 and 2020 while COVID-19 has claimed more than 622,000 lives between January 2020 and August 2021. Over 33,000 Wisconsinites have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Published: August 2021