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1 in 5 Parents Missed Work for H1N1 School Closings: Survey
Date:7/14/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Closing schools to help stem the spread of H1N1 influenza didn't have a serious economic impact for most parents, according to a new U.S. government study.

But whether school closures slowed the spread of the so-called "swine flu" is unclear, as the report found that 69 percent of children from a closed school in Pennsylvania visited other places, such as stores, sports practices, restaurants and doctors' offices, while their school was closed.

"We wanted to conduct a survey to assess what impact a school closing has on a household. What kind of disruption did these parents have?" explained the study's lead author, Thomas Gift, an economist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "We found that only a minority of households reported any time off from work," he said.

But, in the 22 percent of households where at least one parent had to miss work, about 40 percent of those parents had to miss five days of work, he added.

In spring 2009, H1N1 flu was quickly beginning to spread across the United States. Trying to stop the outbreak, some school districts closed schools where children had been positively identified as having H1N1 influenza.

The current study focuses on the impact of the week-long closing of a Pennsylvania elementary school in May. Two hundred and fourteen parents completed the survey, and those parents accounted for 269 (59 percent) of the 456 children enrolled at the school.

Most of the households (73.4 percent) had two adults living in the home, while 15 percent had more than two adults in the home. Just under 12 percent were single-parent households, according to the study.

Forty-one percent of the households had at least one child with flu-like symptoms, and 16 percent had at least one adult with flu symptoms, the survey found.

Just 22 percent of parents
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