School closures key move in flu pandemic

TEMPORARY school closures in Mexico as part of the containment effort during the 2009 swine flu outbreak successfully impeded transmission of the virus, researchers say.

Scientists plotted three waves of flu-like illness: it hit first in Mexico City from April, then in the country’s south-eastern states from June, with a third widespread wave emerging in August.

“We estimate that the 18-day period of mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures implemented in the greater Mexico City area was associated with a 29% to 37% reduction in influenza trans­mission,” they concluded.

The research highlighted the importance of school cycles on the transmission dynamics of the pandemic and also how school closures could mitigate future pandemics.

PLoS Medicine 2011, online 24 May