Reactive School Closure During Increased Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Activity in Western Kentucky, 2013: A Field Evaluation of Effect on ILI Incidence and Economic and Social Consequences for Families

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2016 May 25;3(3):ofw113. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofw113. eCollection 2016 Sep.


Background. School closures are an important mitigation strategy during influenza pandemic: if implemented early in a local outbreak, they can slow the disease spread in the surrounding community. During seasonal influenza epidemics, school closures may occur reactively, after the disease is already widespread in the community. Such reactive closures are often too late to reduce influenza transmission. However, they can provide data to determine under which circumstances they might be effective in reducing influenza-like illness (ILI) transmission. Methods. We conducted a household survey in a school district in Kentucky. District A closed after high student absenteeism due to influenza-like illness (ILI), whereas adjacent Districts B and C remained open. We collected data on self-reported ILI among household members in these 3 districts 2 weeks before the District A closure, during closure, and 2 weeks after reopening, and we evaluated economic and social consequences of school closure on student households in District A. The difference-in-differences method was applied to compare changes in ILI rates from before to after closure between districts. Results. Estimated average daily ILI rate decreased less in District A than in District B or C for the entire sample and when stratified by age groups (0-5 years old, 6-18 years old, and above 18 years old). Twenty-five percent of District A households reported ≥1 closure-related economic or social difficulty. Conclusions. Closing schools after a widespread ILI activity in District A did not reduce ILI transmission but caused difficulties for some households.

Keywords: influenza; school closure; school dismissal; schools.