Association Between School Closure and Subsequent Absenteeism During a Seasonal Influenza Epidemic
ABSTRACT Mathematical models suggest that social distancing measures, such as school closures, may mitigate community transmission during an influenza pandemic. Because closures are disruptive to schools and families, they are rarely employed during seasonal influenza outbreaks. A rare circumstance enabled us to examine the association between school closure and absenteeism during a seasonal influenza outbreak when half of King County, Washington public schools closed for a winter recess 19-23 February 2007, while half remained open for all or part of the week.
Using absenteeism as a proxy for influenza activity, we tested the hypothesis that schools on break would experience lower rates of post-break absenteeism than schools remaining open. We conducted daily retrospective and prospective surveillance from 5 February-9 March 2007 in schools on break (n = 256) and in session (n = 205). We use generalized estimating equations with Poisson distribution to evaluate whether mean absenteeism after the break differed between schools on break and those in session, adjusting for baseline absenteeism and repeated measurements by schools over time.
Results indicate no difference in post-break absenteeism in schools on break compared with schools that remained in session (relative risk = 1.07 [95% confidence interval = 0.96-1.20]). This result held in elementary schools (1.00 [0.91-1.10]), where absenteeism patterns are thought to be most representative of community influenza activity.
We did not find that school closure during a seasonal influenza outbreak reduced subsequent absenteeism. However, limitations in this "natural experiment" hampered our ability to detect a benefit if one truly was present.
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ABSTRACT: School environments are thought to play an important role in the community spread of airborne infections (e.g., influenza) because of the high mixing rates of school children. The closure of schools has therefore been proposed as efficient mitigation strategy, with however high social and economic costs: alternative, less disruptive interventions are highly desirable. The recent availability of high-resolution contact networks in school environments provides an opportunity to design micro-interventions and compare the outcomes of alternative mitigation measures. We consider mitigation measures that involve the targeted closure of school classes or grades based on readily available information such as the number of symptomatic infectious children in a class. We focus on the case of a primary school for which we have high-resolution data on the close-range interactions of children and teachers. We simulate the spread of an influenza-like illness in this population by using an SEIR model with asymptomatics and compare the outcomes of different mitigation strategies. We find that targeted class closure affords strong mitigation effects: closing a class for a fixed period of time -equal to the sum of the average infectious and latent durations- whenever two infectious individuals are detected in that class decreases the attack rate by almost 70% and strongly decreases the probability of a severe outbreak. The closure of all classes of the same grade mitigates the spread almost as much as closing the whole school. Targeted class closure strategies based on readily available information on symptomatic subjects and on limited information on mixing patterns, such as the grade structure of the school, can be almost as effective as whole-school closure, at a much lower cost. This may inform public health policies for the management and mitigation of influenza-like outbreaks in the community.BMC Infectious Diseases 08/2014; 14(1). DOI:10.1186/PREACCEPT-6851518521414365 · 2.56 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The role of social distancing measures in mitigating pandemic influenza is not precisely understood. To this end, we have conducted a systematised review, particularly in light of the 2009 pandemic influenza, to better inform the role of social distancing measures against pandemic influenza. Articles were identified from relevant databases and the data were synthesised to provide evidence on the role of school or work place-based interventions, case-based distancing (self-isolation, quarantine), and restriction of mobility and mass gatherings. School closure, whether proactive or reactive, appears to be moderately effective and acceptable in reducing the transmission of influenza and in delaying the peak of an epidemic but is associated with very high secondary costs. Voluntary home isolation and quarantine are also effective and acceptable measures but there is an increased risk of intra-household transmission from index cases to contacts. Work place-related interventions like work closure and home working are also modestly effective and are acceptable, but likely to be economically disruptive. Internal mobility restriction is effective only if prohibitively high (50% of travel) restrictions are applied and mass gatherings occurring within 10 days before the epidemic peak are likely to increase the risk of transmission of influenza.Paediatric Respiratory Reviews 01/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.prrv.2014.01.003 · 2.22 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This paper describes and preliminarily evaluates the usefulness of the daily syndrome-specific absenteeism surveillance system (DSSASS) as an early warning system of school outbreaks in rural China.Public Health 09/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.puhe.2014.06.004 · 1.48 Impact Factor