Location: Bowdoin / Campus Information / Preparedness / H1N1 "Swine" Influenza / Students and Parents

Information for Students and Parents

September 10, 2009

To Members of the Bowdoin Community,

Bowdoin, like many other colleges and universities across the country, has seen an increasing number of students with flu-like symptoms since classes began last week. As a precaution, and consistent with our planning, we took steps in advance to diagnose, isolate, treat, feed, and care for students reporting these symptoms. At the same time, state health officials conducted tests for the H1N1 virus, commonly known as "Swine Flu." Late yesterday, the College received word from the state that the H1N1 virus has indeed appeared at Bowdoin, with eight confirmed cases among our students. To our knowledge, we currently have no cases of the H1N1 virus among Bowdoin faculty or staff. Since H1N1 has now been confirmed here, the state will discontinue tests at Bowdoin.

Our experience, thus far, is that students are recovering quickly after experiencing symptoms that are generally milder in nature than the seasonal flu. While the numbers have been changing rapidly, at this moment, a total of 29 students have reported flu-like symptoms since classes began last Thursday. Of these, nine students have recovered and returned to regular activities. Seven students with families who live nearby have gone home to recuperate, while 13 students remain in isolation on campus where they are being cared for by Bowdoin staff. Included in this last group are two students who were treated at local hospitals for dehydration and released back to isolation at the College while they recover.

As you know, the College has been prepared for an outbreak of the H1N1 virus and continues to actively monitor the progression of the virus on campus and in Maine. Classes, events, and activities are continuing as scheduled. Meanwhile, faculty and coaches have been notified about ill students who are unable to attend class and team practices, and provisions have been made to permit these students to make up their work.

As we work together as a community to manage these health concerns, I urge you to observe and practice simple and effective preventive measures to minimize the spread of this illness. Health officials recommend the following steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or elbow
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing

The College is maintaining a Web site that provides extensive information about the H1N1 virus, a link to Bowdoin’s Epidemic Response Plan, and archived advisories for students and their families, faculty, staff and families with children at the Bowdoin College Children’s Center. Additional information is also available at these sites:

Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This is a difficult way to start our new academic year, but our circumstances are not surprising, especially given the experience of many other colleges and universities and the media reports about the spread of the H1N1 virus that have appeared with increasing frequency in recent days. The good news is that, thus far, those at Bowdoin with this illness are recovering quickly and completely. I am especially grateful for the efforts by so many members of our community who are assisting those who are ill, and I am confident that the College has the procedures in place and the resources to manage this situation effectively. Thank you for your help and understanding as we address these health concerns together.

With best wishes,

Tim Foster
Dean of Student Affairs

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8/19/2009

Dear Bowdoin Students and Parents,
 
The Bowdoin campus will soon be busy with activity, and the community is in high gear preparing for your return.  One item that has been the focus of our planning this summer is the possibility of a more active-than-usual flu season.  H1N1, previously known as the “Swine Flu,” has received a great deal of attention in the national media.  To date, the illness hasn’t been any more severe than the seasonal flu, but it does seem to be transmitted easily and move through residential communities such as ours quite rapidly. This was the case at many Maine summer camps, and we expect our experience at Bowdoin to be similar.  We are writing to share with you plans and preparations the College has made and to describe what you can do to help limit the spread of illness on campus.
 
 
The College’s Plans and Preparations
 
Bowdoin maintains plans to deal with a variety of emergency situations, including health emergencies. A plan dealing with influenza has been modified to address specifically the H1N1 flu. This plan, which would be enacted if confirmed cases appear on campus, was developed in consultation with healthcare, emergency management, public safety, and government officials, and includes infection control measures and protocols for the care of affected individuals on campus.  Specifically:

  • Health Services and Residential Life staff will work to educate students on limiting the spread of illness.  The seasonal flu and H1N1 spread through droplets, and practicing good hygiene remains the most effective way to limit the spread of illness.  Toward this end, hand sanitizer stations and informational posters have been placed throughout the campus.
  • As has always been the case, regular seasonal flu vaccinations will be made available to students in September, free-of-charge.  This year the College will strongly encourage students to be vaccinated in order to limit the possibility of students becoming ill with the seasonal flu and thereby increasing their susceptibility to the H1N1 virus. 
  • The H1N1 vaccine will be available as soon as it is approved and distributed, and the College will strongly encourage students to receive the vaccination.  Students with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, who are considered at the greatest risk for health complications, will be given first priority to receive the H1N1 vaccine; it will then be offered to all students. The Health Center expects to administer the first round of the dual-dose H1N1 vaccine in October; the second dose will be given 21-28 days later. The H1N1 vaccinations will also be offered free-of-charge.
  • Students experiencing flu-like symptoms will be encouraged to call the Health Center at 725-3770.
    Provisions have been made to diagnose, isolate, treat, feed, and care for affected students on campus.  The recovery from H1N1 is typically 2-4 days, and we are making plans to monitor and support students who need to limit contact with others while ill.  Toward this end, we will be communicating with faculty and coaches about ill students who are unable to attend class and practice.  The recommended length of isolation is now 24 hours after one’s fever has broken.   
  • Students who are away from campus and symptomatic will be encouraged to remain away from campus until they have regained their health.  Students who become ill are free to return home by private transportation if they would rather be cared for there.
  • The College has created an H1N1 Web site that will be updated as events warrant to direct members of the Bowdoin community to the latest information about H1N1, and to provide information about ongoing preparedness efforts at the College.  Parents, if you have questions or concerns, we ask that you contact your student’s dean in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs (207-725-3879). 

 
 
What You Can Do
 
There are a number of things that you can do to help limit the spread of illness.  Parents, we appreciate your help in reinforcing this information.  Specifically:

  • Please do not return to campus if you are ill.  Instead, recover at home and return when you are well.  Just contact your dean, and s/he will notify your faculty members about your absence.
  • Return to campus with a cold and flu kit that includes the following self-care items:  hand sanitizer, tissues, a non-mercury digital thermometer, Tylenol or Advil to reduce fever and body aches, and throat lozenges. Get a seasonal flu vaccination and the vaccinations for H1N1.  This will help limit the number of people who become ill.
  • Practice good hygiene.  See “General Flu Prevention Advice.”
  • If you become ill with a fever greater than 100 and a respiratory symptom (sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough), make an appointment with the Health Center as soon as possible.
  • If you become ill with the flu, don’t go to class or practice.  You need to follow the advice of the Health Center and focus on regaining your health.  This is not a time to “soldier on.”  That is not in your interests or the interests of the community.  Just contact your dean, and s/he will notify your faculty members about your absence.

 
 
General Flu Prevention Advice
 
The CDC's recommendations to reduce your risk of becoming infected:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or elbow
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing

 
Additional information can be found on the following Web sites:
 
Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/swine-flu-2009.shtml
 
Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
 
 
Each year we have flu on campus, but by taking these steps we hope to safeguard student health and minimize the disruption to students’ academic and extracurricular lives.  Thank you for taking care of yourself and our community. 
 
We are looking forward to seeing you and starting the new year. Safe travels to Brunswick!
 
Tim Foster
Dean of Student Affairs
 
Sandra Hayes
Director of Health Services