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Homeschooling--And Not By Choice

Ready to keep your kids home from school--perhaps for months? To forgo family outings to the zoo or playground? And to help them with schoolwork that comes to the house by e-mail?

Don't dismiss those possibilities. It's pretty much a given that sooner or later the world will face another influenza pandemic along the lines of the 1918 outbreak that killed tens of millions of people. Today's most likely culprit is the avian flu, which has killed about two-thirds of the 379 people it's infected so far, according to the World Health Organization. Authorities worldwide are keeping a careful eye on the so-called bird flu, watching for signs that the flu virus has mutated to become easily spread from human to human.

And when that happens, we'd better be ready.

A report in the journal Nature says that because the existing vaccine and drugs alone won't be enough to check the rapid spread of a potentially deadly flu strain, isolating people from one another will be a key way slow its transmission. And because kids are big-time spreaders of disease to one another and to family members, keeping them away from one another may be crucial. The report suggests that closing schools during a flu pandemic could reduce the overall number of cases of illness by up to 17 percent and reduce peak levels by as much as 45 percent.

That will mean keeping kids at home. Which, for many working parents, will mean staying home, too.

Schools throughout the nation are developing, or have developed, plans for dealing with a flu pandemic and are discussing the concept of long-distance teaching.

But what if a parent has to stay home for a prolonged period? And what about the single parents among us? A pandemic would unbalance the juggling many of us already do between family and work

It's easy to pretend we'll never actually have to face the reality of a global pandemic. But authorities--and history--suggest otherwise.

Preparing your family might not be fun. But it's high time we all did it.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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This article seems alarmist, but I love the admission that children are major spreaders of disease - in my office it's always the parents who get colds/flu first and then infect the rest of us.

Posted by: Aexandria, vA | April 14, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

One of our neighborhood schools had to close for a few days this year due to more than 25% of it's students being out sick with the flu. Our house did manage to avoid getting sick (I am still not sure how), but it was alarming. The fact that they were treating the school with such a large amount of powerful anti-bacterial cleaners was no less alarming. It is easy to believe that this article is overly alarmist, but having gone through such a localized epidemic just this winter it is easier to believe that preparing for a larger epidemic is necessary.

Posted by: Momof5 | April 14, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

In re the "alarmist" nature of the article...we have had a number of people in the library in the last couple of years doing in depth research on the 1918-19 flu epidemic. The cities that fared best were those that did not worry about seeming "alarmist" and enacted public health measures such as closing schools, libraries, and other public buildings early. Cities that fared more poorly waited longer to implement such measures and even to provide information to their citizens about the epidemic because they did not want to scare people.

Better scared and prepared than happy and dead.

Posted by: librarian | April 14, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

This is the avian flu. There is no alarmist about it. The numbers are real and real scary.
Modern travel methods will spread it across the planet before anyone will know what hit them. The only way to really fight it will be social distancing. Sanitizing surfaces with a little alcohol does not kill this germ adequately either. There are specific protocols that health officials will have to follow. The best thing for individuals to do is to start paying attention to their state/local health departments and stop using terms like *alarmist*. They will have enough to worry about when everyone gets sick at the same time -- including them -- and all the supplies of everything are used up. A 63 percent morbidity rate is anything but alarmist regardless of the economic development of the country.

Posted by: Avian Flu | April 14, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

When the bird flu arrives, I'm not leaving my apartment for several months. I'm in the age group with the highest death rates for the 1918 flu (healthy adults in their 20s and 30s), so I've got a stockpile of food & water, and I'll work from home.

Alarmist = alive.

Posted by: I've got a stockpile | April 14, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

'm in the age group with the highest death rates for the 1918 flu (healthy adults in their 20s and 30s)

Yes, this is the age group largely affected by the flu pandemic. My husband's grandfather died in 1918 from the flu. He was 32 years old.

Posted by: Lynne | April 14, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

It's beyond my comprehension why people are freaking out about avian flu yet it is completely within our power to prevent it. Avian flu stems from animal agriculture. Keeping the chickens in close conditions spreads the disease to other chickens and eventually humans. If we stop eating chickens, we could easily prevent an avian flu outbreak from happening. Yet people are more willing to take chances on thier future than give up a convenience.

Posted by: Unbelievable | April 15, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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