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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton prepares in case of H1N1 outbreak

<utbreak has been the cause of concern for many in the recent days. Swine Flu, or the H1N1 Influenza A, as it is being called to avoid the misunderstanding among the public that it spreads from pork meat, has confirmedly spread to 24 countries and is suspected to be present in another 20 countries. In the United States, it has been laboratory-confirmed in roughly 830 people and has caused two deaths to date.

The virus is thought to have emerged in Mexico and the evidence increasingly points the origin of the virus to a US-owned industrial pig farm in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The novel virus is thought to be an assortment of four strains of the H1N1 Influenza A virus subtype with one strain derived partly from a North American flu virus. An analysis done by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention shows that the four component strains are a combination of one endemic in humans, one endemic in birds, and two endemics in pigs (swine) but this is still being debated among scientists.

The outbreak has reached Phase 5 which is one below the official Pandemic level. Newspapers and other media are full from reports and updates about the virus and most are coupled with photos of people wearing masks. Five cases of the Swine Flu have been detected in Minnesota. Governor Tim Pawlenty stated, “State and local public health offices will do everything possible to contain the illness, but realistically, we have to acknowledge that we should expect more cases.” Such news has already frightened several Carleton students; many Carls could be heard in the past few days talking about cases of the flu in America or Mexico, where the H1NI1 flu has proved fatal for 42 Mexicans already.

Carleton’s administration responded very quickly to the H1N1 outbreak. By the April 28—a day prior to a Cold Spring, Minnesota resident testing positive for H1N1—Dean Hudlin Wagner sent out a mail to Students, Faculty and Staff relating that the Acting Health and Human Services Secretary had declared a Public Health Emergency nationwide. She also stressed on an action plan for people falling sick and relayed that there was a normal flu doing rounds on the campus which should not become the cause of much anxiety. She also described the emergency signals to look out for if a person with the flu becomes seriously ill.

This was followed by President Rob Oden’s mail on the May 1 about the update on Carleton’s Pandemic Preparedness. Carleton has also set up a update plan on their webpage on the flu at . Additionally, no off-campus studies programs have been changed as of now because of the flu.

Natalee Johnson, Advanced Certified Practice Nurse at the Wellness Centre, stressed on the fact that students falling sick with flu like symptoms should rest properly and make sure they do not go to classes and infect the rest of the student body. According to Johnson, the fact that the H1N1 virus is a novel virus is really very serious because we do not know if the virus will evolve into something worse. “We have to be very careful and watch it properly” stated Johnson. She also stated that the attitude of the state in regard to the flu virus had changed in that while previously the state was asking schools to close, now it is asking them to stay open and anyone with a severe flu is being asked to go into voluntary isolation.

President Oden stressed the same point when he was asked about the college’s plan for action if the H1N1 stepped up from its current Phase 5 status to Phase 6 Pandemic status. He stated that while the College’s Pandemic Response Team has been meeting daily, their plan of action was changing because of the current information on the H1N1 virus which indicated that the epidemic appeared to be quite mild and not spreading rapidly. President Oden stated that while the team is still contemplating a wide spectrum of responses and steps to take should the H1N1 flu become more serious. These measures also include longer-term planning, such as measures if the flu returned in the fall in a more virulent state.

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