Thursday, July 30, 2009

Closing schools at Pandemic's peak could half swine flu deaths - but now may not be the time

“If we all became hermits or lived under house arrest, then that would be an effective way of reducing flu infections this winter, but it’s hardly practical,” he said. “By closing schools or nurseries we might upset every parent in the land and arguably cause more trouble than it’s worth.”

A 12-week closure of schools could wipe 6 per cent off Britain’s gross domestic product, as working parents would have to make alternative childcare arrangements, adding to absenteeism.

SHOOT: It may come down to cost. And sacrifice. Are we prepared to save lives and lose money? In a pandemic scenario, the sooner schools close the better the spread can be curbed, but they may need to remain closed for up to year, possibly two. There is an argument to be made that symptoms are currently mild. I think what's more important is slowing this virus down, whatever way is possible, to buy time. Homeschooling is an option for wealthy parents. Swine flu is probably going to wipe out the poor.
Computerised models predict that school closures would significantly slow the spread of the virus, reducing the numbers falling ill at the pandemic’s peak by between 39 to 45 per cent.
Retrospective studies of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million worldwide, suggest that closing schools in American and Australian cities might have reduced mortality by between 10 and 30 per cent, with larger reductions in deaths at the peak — up to 50 per cent in some cities.
John Oxford, Professor of Virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said that closing schools would be an extreme measure not justified by the mild symptoms experienced by most people infected with the virus.
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