Closing Schools During H1N. Will closing schools be an effective means of preventing the spread of a naturally occurring biological event?
A recent survey conduced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 214 households after a 1-week elementary school closure because of pandemic (H1N1) 2009. They found that students spent 77% of the closure days at home and 69% of students visited at least 1 other location, and 79% of households reported that adults missed no days of work to watch children.
In May 2009, an elementary school (kindergarten-4th grade) in a semi rural area of Pennsylvania closed for 1 week after an abrupt increase in absenteeism due to influenza-like illness (ILI) and the confirmation of influenza A pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection in 1 student while other schools in the district remained open.
For each day of school closure, respondents were asked for the following information: where the student spent most of the day; whether the student went elsewhere, who watched the student; and whether the person watching the student missed work. Questions were asked regarding the oldest student if multiple children attended the school. Households that reported missed work incurred costs, even if those costs were only in terms of lost vacation or sick time.oldest students spent the days of school closure at home. However, most students left the home at least once during the closure period to visit routine venues (stores, locations of sports events or practices, restaurants).
This study bring up some interesting questions. Will school closings have any role in preventing the spread of a naturally occurring biological event if the schools are the only venue closed?I think the answer is no. For social distancing to work, all venues in a given are need to be severely restricted or closed...leaving some schools open while others are closed will lead to disease spread as many households have more than one student going to more than one school.
Also, keeping other venues open; malls, movies and others will encourage people to move outside their home location and may erode the sense of severity in the situation.
Kentucky Study MMWR http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5850a2.htm