Study Shows What Helped During 1918 Flu

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Government health officials tried to build their case for school closings and similar steps during a flu pandemic by showcasing new research Monday that suggests such measures seemed to work during the deadly Spanish flu of 1918. Researchers found that cities like St. Louis, which instituted"social distancing" at least two weeks before flu cases peaked in their communities, had flu-related death rates less than half that of Philadelphia, which didn't act until later.

The whirlwind historical research project _ which started in August _ involves a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who combed through health records, newspaper clippings and other documents from 45 cities.

"This is a Manhattan Project of history," said Michigan's Dr. Howard Markel, one of the lead researchers, in a presentation at a pandemic flu planning meeting of health officials in Atlanta.

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