New Study Touts Community Measures to Slow Pandemic

Closing schools and taking other steps in communities to prevent the rapid spread of influenza are effective ways to stop pandemic flu, CDC said Aug. 7, citing a new study of public records from the 1918-19 flu pandemic that swept the world. These community measures "can save lives, particularly when the measures are used in combination and implemented soon after an outbreak begins in a community," CDC said.

The findings are published in the Aug. 8 issue of JAMA/I>, the journal of the American Medical Association. "These strategies are particularly important because the intervention most likely to provide the best protection against pandemic influenza -- a vaccine -- is unlikely to be available at the outset of a pandemic," CDC said. "Community strategies that delay or reduce the impact of a pandemic (also called non-pharmaceutical interventions) may help reduce the spread of disease until a vaccine that is well-matched to the virus is available."

The review of health department reports, U.S. Census mortality data, and newspaper archives was done by scientists from CDC and the University of Michigan Medical School's Center for the History of Medicine. "Communities that were most successful during the 1918 pandemic quickly enacted a variety of measures," said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and senior author of the study. "Those planning for the next pandemic need to carefully consider how to best use these strategies to protect people and decrease the potential impact of the next pandemic in their communities."

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