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May 14 update on H1N1 (swine flu)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed eight H1N1 (swine flu) cases in Maine, with five other cases probable, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 13 cases involve three adults in Kennebec County, four adults and one youth in York County, two adults and two youths in Cumberland County, and one youth in Penobscot County. All are recovering.

There have been no cases of swine flu reported at Bates College. As the CDC continues to investigate outbreaks of swine flu, Bates encourages students who have flu-like symptoms and/or have recently been to Mexico to call the Health Center at 786-6199. To date, swine flu signs and symptoms have consisted of influenza-like illness including sudden onset of fever, plus cough or sore throat.

For more information from the Maine CDC on H1N1 (swine flu), go to www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/swine-flu-2009.shtml.

The Bates College Senior Emergency Response Group is assessing all new developments that may affect students, faculty and staff. The Health Center has sent messages to all students, faculty and staff in recent days with information about the virus and advice on preventing its spread.

Information for students and families

Classes and activities are continuing as scheduled. We do not anticipate the College needing to close before the end of the Short Term May 29. But should circumstances arise that necessitate an emergency closing, all students would need to leave campus within 24 hours of the announcement. Our concern is for the health and safety of the students, and our goal would be to get students home before there is widespread infection on campus. We therefore ask that students and families make a specific plan now for leaving campus.  If the student is not able to get home on short notice, please identify relatives or friends with whom the student will stay. Should a closure become necessary, updates on re-opening will be provided on the College Web site and via e-mail.

Information for faculty and staff members

Faculty and staff who are experiencing flu symptoms or have a family member in their home with confirmed swine flu should stay home from work, contact their physician, and follow the CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.  Staff members are asked to contact their immediate supervisor prior to the start of their workday to inform them of their absence, and should plan to use accrued sick time while absent.

Staff and faculty are also asked to e-mail the Human Resources Department at hrdept@bates.edu to inform the College of their exposure to the swine flu.  If you do not have access to e-mail, you may leave a message with the Human Resources Department at 786-6140.  All personal medical information will be kept in strict confidence following HIPAA guidelines.  The information gathered will help inform the college about the level of flu incidences in our employee population.

The community should also monitor the news to stay informed. Public health officials are warning that the disease will continue to spread. Swine flu is thought to spread in the same manner as seasonal flu. Common precautions such as regular hand-washing and avoiding touching your nose, eyes, or mouth, should be practiced. The best sources of information come from the CDC and may be found at its Web site at www.cdc.gov. Students studying abroad should monitor public health announcements and visit the World Health Organization Web site at www.who.int.

Additional information

The recent cases of swine flu provide an opportunity to remind us all of the things we can do to prevent illness and stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also are effective.
  • Avoid spreading viruses by not touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Students: What to do if you feel ill

If you feel ill with flu-like symptoms, students should call the Health Center at 207-786-6199.  Do not go to class or work until you have been cleared to do so.

Treatment

  • Treatment consists of rest, fluids, and antiviral medications.
  • Care providers should assess and treat any additional complications caused by the flu.

After your return from an area that has reported cases of H1N1 (swine flu):

  • Closely monitor your health for seven days.
  • If you become ill with fever and other symptoms of swine flu like cough and sore throat and possibly vomiting and diarrhea during this period, call the Health Center or your primary care provider for an appointment right away.  Your health care provider may test you for influenza and decide whether influenza antiviral treatment is indicated.
  • When you make the appointment, tell your provider’s office the following:  your symptoms, where you have traveled, and if you have had close contact with a person infected with H1N1 (swine flu).
  • If you are ill, avoid going to classes or Commons until you have been medically evaluated.

Period of Contagion

  • The duration of shedding (the period of contagion) with the swine flu virus is unknown.  Therefore, until data are available, the estimated duration of the viral shedding is based upon seasonal influenza virus infection.  Infected persons are assumed to be shedding virus and potentially infectious from the day prior to illness onset until resolution of fever. Infected persons should be assumed to be contagious up to seven days from illness onset. Some persons who are infected might potentially shed virus and be contagious for longer periods (e.g. immunosuppressed, and immunocompromised persons).

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