From CNN.com: Scientists dig for lessons from past pandemics
Markel and colleagues examined 43 cities and found that so-called nonpharmaceutical interventions -- steps such as quarantines and school closings -- were remarkably successful in tamping down the outbreak. "They don't make the population immune, but they buy you time, either by preventing influenza from getting into the community or slowing down the spread," Markel told CNN
If it seems odd to base medical strategy on 90-year-old newspapers, the approach is increasingly popular. "There's a big case for looking at history," says Simonson. "We call it archaeo-epidemiology. You go to libraries and places like that, dig around, collaborate with people like John Barry and try to quantify what really worked."
Barry is the author of "The Great Influenza," perhaps the signature history of the devastating 1918 pandemic. He says the historical record shows that isolating patients worked to slow the spread of flu in 1918, but that attempted quarantines -- preventing movement in and out of cities -- was "worthless."