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School closures and influenza

27 Feb 2013

Objective

To review the effects of school closures on pandemic and seasonal influenza outbreaks.

Design

Systematic review.

Data sources

MEDLINE and EMBASE, reference lists of identified articles, hand searches of key journals and additional papers from the authors' collections.

Study selection

Studies were included if they reported on a seasonal or pandemic influenza outbreak coinciding with a planned or unplanned school closure.

Results

Of 2579 papers identified through MEDLINE and EMBASE, 65 were eligible for inclusion in the review along with 14 identified from other sources. Influenza incidence frequently declined after school closure. The effect was sometimes reversed when schools reopened, supporting a causal role for school closure in reducing incidence. Any benefits associated with school closure appeared to be greatest among school-aged children. However, as schools often closed late in the outbreak or other interventions were used concurrently, it was sometimes unclear how much school closure contributed to the reductions in incidence.

Conclusions

School closures appear to have the potential to reduce influenza transmission, but the heterogeneity in the data available means that the optimum strategy (eg, the ideal length and timing of closure) remains unclear.

Date: 
27 February 2013

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open