Younger Children Have Longer H1N1 Viral Shedding Period

During pandemic-caused school closure, many youths leave the home and parents miss work
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children under 13 years of age shed the 2009 H1N1 virus longer than other age groups, posing a higher risk for spreading the virus; yet, closing schools during a flu pandemic has limited effectiveness for isolating children, according to two studies published in the August issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Chung-Chen Li, M.D., and colleagues from the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital-Kaohsiung Medical Center in Taiwan measured the viral load of 1,052 patients, including 602 with confirmed H1N1 infection who received oseltamivir treatment for five days. The researchers measured the duration of high viral load and its association with disease severity. They found that the H1N1 virus persisted longest in patients younger than 13 and was highest in patients who also had pneumonia. The researchers concluded that younger children should be isolated longer to prevent spreading the virus, and that patients with pneumonia may need more aggressive treatment.

In a second study, Thomas L. Gift, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues surveyed 214 households following the weeklong closure of a Pennsylvania elementary school in May 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic. The survey revealed that 69 percent of the students had visited at least one other location during the school closure, such as stores, sports events or practices, and restaurants. Twenty-two percent of parents reported missing work to stay home with their children during the school closure, with approximately 40 percent of these parents missing work for all five days of the closure.

"These findings add to the body of literature on the effects of school closure on households. They can be used by decision makers, as well as parents, to assess the potential social disruption of school closure in the context of future influenza outbreaks," Gift and colleagues conclude.

Full Text - Li
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