State Not Taking Action to Prevent Further Spread of H1N1 Virus

HONOLULU -May 14, 2009- Senator Mike Gabbard (District 19, Makakilo, Kapolei, Waipahu) stated today that the refusal of the state administration to close down a local public school for a week/ten days to prevent the further spread of the swine flu virus among students and their families and the state’s continuing refusal to take more proactive aggressive screening measures at entry points to Hawai’i, make it clear that there is no serious attempt being made to contain the spread of this virus throughout the community.

Gabbard said, “The decision by the state not to temporarily close Anuenue School is shortsighted and the height of irresponsibility. However, it is consistent with their failure to do the most basic precautionary screening at the airports.”

Two recent studies show that timely temporary closures of schools can significantly decrease the spread of flu transmission:
“A 2007 study( led by Marc Lipsitch, of the Harvard School of Public Health, compared the progress of the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic in American cities that adopted different public health policies. Cities such as St Louis, which rapidly closed schools and banned many public gatherings, experienced a relatively flat pandemic, with deaths peaking at 31 per 100,000 people. Philadelphia, which waited three weeks before imposing controls, suffered peak deaths of 257 per 100,000. The overall death rate for Philadelphia was 719 per 100,000, more than double the rate of 347 per 100,000 for the same period in St Louis.” (Times Online, May 6, 2009)

“A 2008 study(, led by Simon Cauchemez and Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, London, used data on how school holidays influence seasonal flu transmission in France to simulate the effect of school closures in a pandemic. It found that they could significantly slow the spread of the virus, reducing the numbers falling ill at the pandemic’s peak by as much as 45 per cent. A school closure policy could also prevent up to one in seven cases.” (Times Online, May 6, 2009)

“In addition,” Gabbard said, “whatever faith the people of Hawai'i have had in the Department of Health has been further undermined by them not counting tourists swine flu cases or officially listing them.”

Gabbard commented that taken as a whole, the state's policy of inaction in regards to protecting the people of Hawai'i borders on criminal negligence.

For more information, please contact Senator Gabbard's Office at 586-6830.