Closing school could reduce H1N1 spread by twenty-one percent

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Results of a new analysis show that when schools are closed, such as during holidays and on weekends, infectious disease transmission declines. The study shows that closing schools could prevent spread of H1N1 flu by twenty-one percent during pandemic episodes.

The study conducted in eight European countries and published in BMC Infectious Diseases compared disease spread when schools are closed, finding that contact that can spread disease is reduced by ten percent when schools are closed, and could have important implications for reducing spread of H1N1 flu.

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"Children are important spreaders of many close contact pathogens due to their frequent and intimate social contacts, their general hygiene, and perhaps their increased shedding. The reduced opportunity for contact we describe here would be a great benefit in a pandemic situation". Based on the study, closing school could reduce H1N1 flu spread by twenty-one percent.

The researchers say, "Of course, this is a conservative estimate as, during a pandemic, typical weekend activities with a strong social component such as team sports and cultural outings may not take place. On the other hand, the expected large macroeconomic costs of school closures would have to be balanced against these benefits.".

Closing school could have a significant impact on disease spread, including tuberculosis and H1N1 flu. The scientists say the findings show that closing school could conservatively reduce spread of H1N1 by twenty-one percent.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:187doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-187

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