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The H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Outbreak
October 30, 2009: To the Rensselaer Community
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From: Leslie Lawrence, M.D.
Medical Director, Student Health Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

H1N1 Update

As of October 29, we have experienced 177 cases of influenza among students on the Troy campus. Some 30 students have active cases of the illness. Of those, seven are in isolation rooms and 23 are recuperating at home with their families. The remaining 147 students are fully recovered. In addition, we continue to receive reports of relatively small numbers of faculty and staff with influenza-like illnesses.

There are very important details in this week’s message, so please take a moment to read it carefully.

First, after a longer wait than expected, we have received approximately 500 doses of the H1N1 vaccine. More is expected in the future, but at this time this limited amount is all we have available. We will be following guidelines provided by the CDC in dispensing these vaccines, providing it to those at the highest risk from infection and/or complications.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3 the first limited H1N1 clinic will be held in the auxiliary health center in the Academy Hall auditorium. Please read carefully the details on the people who can receive a vaccination at this clinic, as only a small percentage of the campus is eligible to receive a vaccine at this time.

As recommended by the CDC, all women who are pregnant will be among the first to be vaccinated. Any student, faculty, or staff member who is currently pregnant can receive a vaccine from 11a.m.-1 p.m. on Nov. 3. We ask that all faculty and staff who are pregnant consult their personal obstetricians for approval before the clinic.

From 1-4 p.m. on Nov. 3 we will work to vaccinate students, faculty, and staff who are under the age of 24 AND have any of the following high-risk conditions:

  • Respiratory disease (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or asthma)
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Renal disease
  • Morbid obesity
  • Compromised immune systems (due to conditions such as HIV or as the result of chemotherapy)

We have ordered 6,000 doses of the vaccine. We have no way of knowing if or when any more of the requested supply will arrive. We will provide information to you about availability of more vaccine as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding during this process. It has been frustrating from time to time, but the vaccine situation appears to be improving. Stay tuned.

Second, Halloween falls on a weekend this year. I know this means plenty of social gatherings both off and on campus. I remind each of you to wash hands, avoid sharing food or drinks, and keep a distance between yourself and others during social gatherings and events. And, as always, use your common sense to keep yourself safe and healthy. Social gatherings continue to be the most likely place that college students become ill with the flu.

Finally, I remind all to purchase thermometers as well as Tylenol and Motrin (or their generic versions). These inexpensive items are available at Father’s in the Union as well as nearby drugstores.

As always, your best protections against the flu include:

  • Washing your hands often, especially after shaking hands with others (hand disinfectants may be used if there is no access to soap and water);
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Covering your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow if you do not have a tissue;
  • Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, especially after contact with others; and
  • Keeping a three-foot [one-meter] distance between yourself and anyone who is ill.

Please take care.

Leslie Lawrence, M.D.
Medical Director, Student Health Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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