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Monday 24th October 2016

Close schools to curb swine flu

21st July 2009

MPs have been invited to think about whether shutting down schools could help to lessen the number of swine flu cases in the UK.

swine flu

Scientists at Imperial College London said there were both benefits and disadvantages to school closures.

They said it might reduce the spread of cases and create a longer stretch of time in which to produce a vaccine.

They added that it would also be very disruptive and would not decrease the total number of swine flu cases.

The researchers pointed out that "up to a third" of people in healthcare positions had children who they would need to look after if schools were shut down.  This would affect how the health service was able to deal with swine flu cases.

They added that closing schools for three months could erase 6% of the GDP.

Lead researcher Professor Neil Ferguson said: "The [swine flu] pandemic could become more severe, and so the current cautious approach of not necessarily recommending school closure in Europe and North America might need reappraisal in the autumn."

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: "Now that the virus is established in the community, expert advice is that there is no longer a strong case for closing schools to contain the spread of infection."

He added that the Health Protection Agency's advice was that schools where swine flu cases had been confirmed were to remain open "unless specifically advised otherwise".

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