School closures slow spread of pH1N1: study

Closing elementary and secondary schools can help slow the spread of infectious disease and should be considered as a control measure during pandemic outbreaks, according to a McMaster University led study.

Using high-quality data about the incidence of infections in Alberta during the 2009 H1N1 , the researchers show that when schools closed for the summer, the transmission of infection from person to person was sharply reduced.

"Our study demonstrates that school-age children were important drivers of pH1N1 transmission in 2009," says David Earn, lead author of the study published in . Earn is professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and member of McMaster's Michael G. Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR).

Alberta was the only Canadian province to continue extensive virologic testing throughout the first wave and continuously to the middle of the second wave of the 2009 pandemic, allowing researchers to identify the causes of changes in incidence as the pandemic progressed.

"The data that we obtained were so good that our plots immediately revealed a huge drop in incidence when schools were closed for the summer," says Earn. "Using state-of-the-art modeling, we then demonstrated that transmission was reduced by at least 50 per cent."

The model also indicates that in weather significantly affected influenza transmission in cities in Alberta, but that they were much less important than .

"Our study emphasizes the value of gathering data consistently throughout an outbreak," says Earn. "For example, in Ontario they imposed testing restrictions on June 11, before schools had closed. We couldn't possibly have done this analysis based on other parts of Canada."

Earn and colleagues intend to continue to encourage policy makers to collect data through the course of an infectious disease outbreak. Only by swabbing large numbers of people throughout a pandemic, he says, the effects of various changes in behavior or control strategies are shown.

He adds that this article will help policy makers make the hard decision of whether or not to close schools during a pandemic outbreak.

"This strongly suggests that closing schools as a preventative measure is a strategy worth seriously thinking about. The next time a disease like SARS or the 1918 flu emerges, this paper will give policy makers more confidence that closing schools is likely to significantly reduce the rate of transmission."

The study also involved McMaster investigators Jonathan Dushoff, associate professor of biology, and Mark Loeb, professor and division director of for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, who are also members of the IIDR.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Boys will infect boys, swine flu study shows

Jan 31, 2011

Boys predominantly pass on flu to other boys and girls to girls, according to a new study of how swine flu spread in a primary school during the 2009 pandemic, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Ac ...

H1N1 influenza pandemic modeling for public health action

Jul 20, 2009

Mathematical modelling can help inform public health policy in outbreaks such as the H1N1 pandemic, write members of the Pandemic Influenza Outbreak Research Modelling Team in Canada in a CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Jo ...

Recommended for you

Women with endometriosis need support, not judgement

2 hours ago

Known for years as the "career woman's disease" based on the idea that women without children develop disease in their reproductive organs, endometriosis is a painful condition thought to affect one in ten wome ...

Global Ebola conference seeks end to W.Africa outbreak

7 hours ago

Leaders of Ebola-hit countries in west Africa will attend an international conference in Brussels Tuesday to mobilise a final push to end the outbreak and ensure the delivery of nearly $5 billion in aid pledges.

High prevalence of HCV in baby boomers presenting to ER

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The prevalence of unrecognized chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is high among baby boomers presenting to the emergency department, according to a study published online Jan. 28 in Hepatology.

The hidden burden of dengue fever in West Africa

17 hours ago

Misdiagnosis of febrile illnesses as malaria is a continuing problem in Africa. A new study shows that in Ghana, dengue fever is circulating in urban areas and going undiagnosed. The authors of the study hope to use the findings ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.