Suggestions that the swine flu pandemic could be curbed by closing schools next term has received a cool reaction in Britain even as a teenage girl became the 30th person with the virus to die here.
Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said school closures -- suggested by health experts and the World Health Organisation -- would be "extremely disruptive", noting that they had not worked when tried locally already.
AdvertisementA study in the Lancet medical journal suggested swine flu could be curbed by up to 40 percent by closing schools beyond the end of the summer holidays in September, when the virus is expected to surge ahead of the winter flu season.
"I think it would take a lot for us to move in that direction, it would be extremely disruptive to society. When would you open them again, given that flu might be around for several months?" Donaldson told GMTV television.
He noted that school closures had already been tried in central England -- an area hit hard by the virus -- and had failed.
"If we look at what we did in the West Midlands for example, where we did very aggressively initially close schools, treat people with Tamiflu who didn't have symptoms but were contacts of cases, eventually it broke out of the box and spread more widely," he said.
"I think we will obviously keep all of these things under review, as we do with any scientific advice, but at the moment I think it is unlikely."
A 15-year-old girl became the latest victim of the virus Tuesday. The Scottish Government said she was admitted to hospital last week in Glasgow and had underlying medical conditions.
The Lancet study, by doctors from Imperial College London, said keeping schoolchildren at home could in some circumstances be effective against the spread of swine flu.
Countries in Europe and North America could be advised to take a look at their policies in the northern hemisphere autumn, it said.
"In an optimistic scenario, closure of schools during a pandemic might have some effect on the total number of cases (maybe a 15 percent reduction) but cause larger reductions (around 40 percent) in peak attack rates," it said.
"However, this reduction will be substantially undermined if children are not sufficiently isolated or if the policy is not well implemented."
A WHO spokeswoman in Geneva echoed the suggestion. "School closure is one of the mitigation measures that could be considered by countries," said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi.
But she added: "Different countries would be facing the pandemic at different levels at different times, so it is really up to countries to consider what mitigation measures would suit them," Bhatiasevi added.