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September 17, 2009

Dear Brown Students,

I am writing to provide an update regarding H1N1 influenza at Brown. As expected, we are beginning to see students reporting influenza like illness (ILI) at University Health Services and through the online reporting system (http://www.brown.edu/fluweb) announced earlier this week. The cases at Brown to date continue to be similar to seasonal influenza, relatively mild, and responsive to treatment when necessary.

Health Services is part of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) H1N1 surveillance network, which means they are asked to laboratory test one case of reported ILI each day. We have been informed by RIDOH that three of the ten individuals tested so far this semester have been confirmed as positive cases of H1N1 influenza. It is important for all community members to know that testing is done for epidemiologic survey purposes only and is not utilized to diagnose or manage the patient's care. Accordingly, although there are many viruses which present with symptoms identical to H1N1, all students with ILI will be treated in the same manner regardless of whether an H1N1 test is conducted.

We will see more cases of ILI and confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in the coming weeks. This is to be expected given the nature of the virus and not a cause for alarm. Our efforts will continue to be focused primarily on trying to limit the spread of H1N1 during the course of the fall and winter. The most important thing Brown community members can do to prevent the spread of illness is to practice good hygiene. This includes:

  • Washing hands often with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand gel, especially after you cough or sneeze.
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If tissue is not available cough into your sleeve/elbow.
  • Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes at anytime, but especially when you are sick as this is a common way H1N1 can spread.

Individuals who are sick with flu symptoms should stay home from school or work and, to the extent possible, limit contact with others, except to seek medical care, for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, or signs of a fever, without the use of fever- reducing medicines.

The seasonal flu vaccine will be available to students, faculty and staff on campus beginning next week. Although the regular seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against H1N1, we strongly encourage all community members to get the vaccine this year. It is especially important that individuals in high-risk categories (those who are pregnant; have significant asthma or other respiratory illness, significant chronic cardiovascular, liver, blood, neurologic disease or diabetes, HIV, or are taking immunosuppressive drugs) get the seasonal flu vaccine. Health Services is in the process of contacting all students who have identified themselves as having one or more of these factors so that they can obtain the vaccine on a priority basis.

Any students who have high risk conditions who have not already made that known to Health Services should contact Jennifer Hodshon at Health Services at 863-7880. We will provide information about the plans for distribution of an expected H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to us.

Further information about H1N1, including specific information for faculty and students regarding handling absences from classes, and links to websites such as RIDOH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can be found on-line at: www.brown.edu/h1n1. We will provide further updates and information as circumstances warrant.

Sincerely,

Margaret Klawunn
Vice President, Campus Life and Student Services