School closure policies at municipality level for mitigating influenza spread: a model-based evaluation

Constanze Ciavarella, Laura Fumanelli, Stefano Merler, Ciro Cattuto and Marco Ajelli BMC Infectious Diseases 16:576 (2016)

Background
Nearly every year Influenza affects most countries worldwide and the risk of a new pandemic is always present. Therefore, influenza is a major concern for public health. School-age individuals are often the most affected group, suggesting that the inclusion in preparedness plans of school closure policies may represent an option for influenza mitigation. However, their applicability remains uncertain and their implementation should carefully be weighed on the basis of cost-benefit considerations.

Methods
We developed an individual-based model for influenza transmission integrating data on sociodemography and time use of the Italian population, face-to-face contacts in schools, and influenza natural history. The model was calibrated on the basis of epidemiological data from the 2009 influenza pandemic and was used to evaluate the effectiveness of three reactive school closure strategies, all based on school absenteeism.

Results
In the case of a new influenza pandemic sharing similar features with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, gradual school closure strategies (i.e., strategies closing classes first, then grades or the entire school) could lead to attack rate reduction up to 20–25 % and to peak weekly incidence reduction up to 50–55 %, at the cost of about three school weeks lost per student. Gradual strategies are quite stable to variations in the start of policy application and to the threshold on student absenteeism triggering class (and school) closures. In the case of a new influenza pandemic showing different characteristics with respect to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, we found that the most critical features determining the effectiveness of school closure policies are the reproduction number and the age-specific susceptibility to infection, suggesting that these two epidemiological quantities should be estimated early on in the spread of a new pandemic for properly informing response planners.

Conclusions
Our results highlight a potential beneficial effect of reactive gradual school closure policies in mitigating influenza spread, conditioned on the effort that decision makers are willing to afford. Moreover, the suggested strategies are solely based on routinely collected and easily accessible data (such as student absenteeism irrespective of the cause and ILI incidence) and thus they appear to be applicable in real world situations.


URL: https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-016-1918-z

PDF: https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12879-016-1918-z

BIBTEX:

@Article{Ciavarella2016,
author="Ciavarella, Constanze
and Fumanelli, Laura
and Merler, Stefano
and Cattuto, Ciro
and Ajelli, Marco",
title="School closure policies at municipality level for mitigating influenza spread: a model-based evaluation",
journal="BMC Infectious Diseases",
year="2016",
volume="16",
number="1",
pages="576",
abstract="Nearly every year Influenza affects most countries worldwide and the risk of a new pandemic is always present. Therefore, influenza is a major concern for public health. School-age individuals are often the most affected group, suggesting that the inclusion in preparedness plans of school closure policies may represent an option for influenza mitigation. However, their applicability remains uncertain and their implementation should carefully be weighed on the basis of cost-benefit considerations.",
issn="1471-2334",
doi="10.1186/s12879-016-1918-z",
url="http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-016-1918-z"
}

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