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Study Shows What Helped During 1918 Flu
Government health officials tried to build their case for school closings and similar steps during a flu pandemic by showcasing new research Monday that suggests such measures seemed to work during the deadly Spanish flu of 1918. ...Researchers found that cities like St. Louis, which instituted "social distancing" at least two weeks before flu cases peaked in their communities, had flu-related death rates less than half that of Philadelphia, which didn't act until later.
The whirlwind historical research project - which started in August - involves a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who combed through health records, newspaper clippings and other documents from 45 cities. ..."This is a Manhattan Project of history," said Michigan's Dr. Howard Markel, one of the lead researchers, in a presentation at a pandemic flu planning meeting of health officials in Atlanta.
Another finding: The more social distancing measures were used and the longer they were in place, the less severe was the pandemic's effect on a particular city. Wearing masks in public, restricting door-to-door sales, canceling church and quarantining sick people were among the layers of measures that appeared beneficial. ...But the researchers acknowledged they've only just begun their analysis, and haven't teased out which measures were most effective. And they stopped short of saying those steps were the clear-cut reason some cities had lower death rates.
CDC Meeting Explores Community Strategies to Reduce Impact of Pandemic Influenza
The impact of pandemic influenza extends well beyond health and medical communities into many segments of society. Developing a pandemic influenza vaccine could take several months, and community prevention strategies are public health measures that don't involve vaccines or medications (also called non-pharmaceutical interventions) may serve as a first line of defense to help delay or reduce the spread of disease.
For pandemic influenza, examples include social distancing strategies that involve reducing contact with other people including closing schools and cancelling public gatherings; planning for liberal work leave policies and teleworking strategies; voluntary isolation of cases and voluntary quarantine of household contacts.