Isham Suspects PA Students Have Swine flu

Swine flu has reached the Andover campus. On Tuesday, Dr. Richard Keller, School Physician, and Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, sent an email to Andover students, faculty and parents announcing the likely presence of the H1N1 virus on campus. “Our first case was last week, and we have since seen 10 to 20 students with flu-like symptoms,” Keller said. Although none of the cases have been confirmed as the H1N1 virus, the school is taking extra precautions by treating students with flu-like symptoms as though they have the swine flu virus. Keller said that Andover is well equipped to deal with the current swine flu outbreak. “We planned for [the arrival of swine flu] in advance. It was not unexpected,” he said. Keller and other Isham staff members are confident that the outbreak will not become a severe problem on campus. “Of the cases we have seen, all have been quite mild and students have recovered after one to three days,” he said. “There is no seasonal flu right now, so it is likely that [the students with flu-like symptoms] have the H1N1 virus,” he continued. Symptoms common to both the common flu and swine flu include fever, coughing, sneezing, body aches and chills. Keller said that direct contact with respiratory droplets and bodily secretions can spread the H1N1 virus. The virus is not airborne. Part of the new school policy regarding the H1N1 virus, as outlined by the United States’ Center for Disease Control, is to isolate infected students for 24 hours after their fever has subsided. Turner Shaw ’11 has been out of classes since Monday. “I’ve missed Monday and Tuesday already, and [the nurses] said I have to be out until at least Thursday, maybe even later, because there’s a 24-hour waiting period after the fever goes down,” he said. Students who live within 250 miles of campus are being sent home to recover from the illness. Sending local students home allows Isham Health Center to free up space for students who cannot practically return home. Isham will separate student visitors depending on their symptoms. Those with flu-like symptoms will be kept apart from those with other illnesses. According to Keller, there are only 18 beds in Isham. With the number of swine flu cases increasing, Sykes and Keller have proposed a contingency plan. “If the demand for beds exceeds Isham’s capacity, students will be put into an empty faculty residence [Moorehead House] with 30 extra beds,” said Keller. “Moorehead House will only be used to house students who are minimally ill,” he continued. Although the virus seems to be contained to a small group of individuals, there is no way of forecasting a serious outbreak. “We still don’t know if [the virus] may become more severe. It’s impossible to predict,” said Keller. The recent outbreak within the Andover community is less severe than the nationwide outbreak that occurred last spring, said Keller. The situations at some of Andover’s peer schools indicate how the virus may behave. “There have been similar outbreaks in peer schools. Those schools began classes a week earlier [than Andover], and the flu came a week earlier [to those schools],” said Keller. According to Keller, in those schools, the outbreak generally lasted a week before calming down and disappearing altogether. But Keller cannot be sure the same will occur at Andover. “We could get a peak of [viral] activity every few weeks throughout the fall term,” Keller said.