Date: November 9, 2009
To: The Washington and Lee Community
From: Dawn Watkins, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
With an apparent increase in influenza-like illnesses on the campus and in the Lexington community, I wanted to update members of the University community on the H1N1 virus.
If you have been following our weekly updates on the special H1N1 Web page, you will note that we had 17 cases of influenza-like illness last week. This is the highest number of cases in a single week since classes began. All told, we have had 78 cases among students.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the H1N1 virus (swine flu) is the only strain circulating in the United States right now. The Health Department is not currently testing for swine flu unless someone is hospitalized for severe influenza illness, but the CDC continues surveillance testing to be able to tell us what flu strains are circulating. We have done a few influenza A tests to make sure that what we are seeing is indeed influenza. For most students, however, we are diagnosing and treating based on their clinical presentation without testing.
The Office of Human Resources has also asked employees to self-report illness with flu-like symptoms. We currently do not have any statistics on this, although we continue to hear anecdotally about cases among employees and members of employees' families.
We encourage all members of the University to try to get the seasonal flu vaccine if they can find it. Students might want to see if they can get the seasonal vaccine when they are home during Thanksgiving break. Seasonal flu strains have not yet begun to circulate in the United States, so it is not too late to get that vaccine.
Meantime, we have ordered an ample supply of H1N1 flu vaccine that will be available to students and faculty/staff (both the nasal mist and injectable forms), but we have not received any yet. We will notify the University community when the H1N1 vaccine is available, announcing where and when to get it. The priority groups for H1N1 flu vaccination are pregnant women, everyone ages 6 months through 24 years, anyone who cares for children under 6 months of age, and anyone ages 25-64 years who has underlying medical conditions that may increase their risk for influenza-related complications (such as asthma, other lung disease, diabetes, heart, liver or kidney disease, a blood disorder or a weakened immune system from medication or illness).
In addition, we want to remind all members of the W&L community to protect themselves with the basic preventive strategies:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick.