H1N1 Update

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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