Swine Flu Reaches Andover High

The swine flu virus has come one step closer to Phillips Academy. A member of the Andover High School community was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, on May 14. The patient now “is back and fully recovered,” said Registered Nurse and Director of Nursing for Andover Public Schools Rita Casper. Richard Keller, School Physician, said that the Andover High School swine flu case will not affect Phillips Academy’s policies regarding the illness. Phillips Academy has had no confirmed or highly suspected cases of the swine flu as of May 19. “At this point, the same policies [that were implemented before the diagnosis of the Andover High School swine flu case] are in effect,” said Keller. Because of confidentiality agreements, Casper was unable to disclose whether the patient was a student or staff member of the school. According to Casper, after the Andover High patient experienced flulike symptoms for over a week, the patient was tested at a doctor’s office. Andover High School asked the patient to stay at home before the results of the swab test were released. “A nasal swab [test] lets a doctor know instantaneously whether the patient has type A or type B influenza,” said Casper. Type A influenza consists of numerous strains, one of which is the H1N1 virus, while type B influenza is the regular seasonal flu. The patient’s test results were sent to a state laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to determine the specific strain of the type A influenza virus. “We’re advising anyone with a fever greater than a 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or two [flulike] symptoms such as body aches, coughing and sneezing, to stay at home,” said Casper. No classes, school activities or athletic contests at Andover High School have been canceled as a result of the swine flu case on-campus. “The swine flu is generally most contagious in the first four days, but we aren’t so sure how severe [swine flu] was, so we’re being cautious and asking [afflicted] students to stay at home for a week,” Casper continued. Precautionary measures have already been implemented to prevent the spread of the virus, said Casper. School health officials and administrators have been teaching students strict hand-washing rules, in addition to coughing and sneezing into one’s sleeve rather than to the hand. “The buildings now have hand sanitizers placed in prominent locations to encourage hand washing. Although washing hands with soap and water is better, [hand sanitizers] are better than nothing,” said Casper. “We’ve been sending a flu fact sheet, emails and letters to parents regarding what the H1N1 virus is and how to talk to kids about it. We’ve also put messages about [the] H1N1 [virus] on the local channel and the educational channel,” she continued. Casper said that other precautionary measures, particularly for elementary school students, include hand washing classes and informing students about germs in general. “Those are all the measures we are going to implement,” Casper continued. “We’re doing a lot of surveillance and we are monitoring for the number of kids that are coming down with these symptoms and tracking them individually.” Keller said that the case of swine flu at Andover High School has not had an impact on Phillips Academy. Keller said, “Our policies simply depend on the circumstances.” A group consisting of Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, Maureen Nunez, Director of Risk Management & Administrative Services, and Keller “meet as necessary” to discuss the current swine flu situation both on- and off-campus, said Keller. Keller added that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is currently only testing extremely ill patients, rather than testing routine samples. “There are over 5,000 confirmed cases in the United States, and almost every state [has swine flu patients],” said Keller. “The number of cases is still growing and I wouldn’t be surprised if the World Health Organization will raise the H1N1 flu to a pandemic level in the next one to two weeks,” he continued.