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Schools 'should stay closed to prevent swine flu spread'

By Lilian Anekwe

It would be ‘foolhardy' for the Government to reopen schools in September while a swine flu vaccine is still unavailable, a GP respiratory expert has warned.

Children are more infectious and appear to be more vulnerable to the H1N1 virus which spreads fast among them, leading some researchers to argue that closing schools for long periods could reduce the spread of swine flu, ease its burden on hospitals and potentially limit the number of deaths due to the virus.

The Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families have both insisted that there currently is not a ‘strong argument' for school closure – but that their policy will be kept under review.

Professor David Price, professor of primary care respiratory medicine at the University of Aberdeen and a Government advisor on respiratory disease, backed the DH strategy of widespread antiviral use but said swine flu would be better managed through school closures.

Professor Price told Pulse: ‘If we really want to reduce use of Tamiflu, we need to look at better public health measures for reducing the spread of swine flu. It is very noticeable that rates of the illness in the UK have begun to drop now children are off school on their summer holidays.

‘There is no greater way of facilitating the spread of swine flu than allowing children to mix in schools. If we had a vaccine it would be a different matter, but given we don't yet, it would in my view be foolhardy to allow children back to school. It's a discussion that needs to be had.'

Some experts have called for schools to remain closed to stop the spread of swine flu

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