A new U.S. government study has found that closing schools during a flu epidemic may help control the spread of the illness and keep people — especially kids — out of the ER.

The study, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases compared two Texas communities in their response to the H1N1 "swine flu" epidemic in 2009. In one area, schools were closed to prevent further spread of the illness; in the other, they remained open.

In the community were where schools closed, there were fewer ER visits for the flu than in the district where schools stayed open. And for kids age 6 and up, there was no increase in ER visits related to the flu, while that rate doubled in the community where schools were open.

At the time, many critics doubted that closing the Texan schools would decrease the spread of H1N1, arguing that kids would just congregate in other places — like shopping malls. But the study offers pretty good evidence to the contrary, proving that closing the schools did in fact control the spread of the illness and keep people out of the ER.

So now this leads to more questions — should schools close when there is a flu epidemic in order to halt the illness' spread? If so, at what point is a flu epidemic considered severe enough for such drastic measures? And is the cost of lost school and work days worth the decision to close schools?

What do you think? Would you like to see schools close when flu strikes?