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Swine flu infects at least 50

It has been three weeks since students returned to campus and the official count of students infected with the H1N1 virus is 50, said Dr. Bill Purdy, executive director of Student Health.

But this number is not necessarily indicative of the total number of students who have contracted the illness. Purdy said many students who call and report symptoms to student health are told to stay in their rooms and only students who visit the clinic ware tested. Of those, about half test positive for H1N1, commonly known as swine flu.

Based on the number of students who have contacted or visited Student Health or completed online Short-Term Illness Notification Forms, the University estimates that approximately 120 students have contracted swine flu this Fall, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations. But he added that the number may not be accurate, as many students may simply take care of themselves and not report their symptoms.

All reported cases have been relatively mild and at this point, the University does not have plans to close any facilities due to swine flu.

“I think that’s something that nobody has any plans for, but I think if a certain number of students or faculty got sick we would have to react to that,” Purdy said. “We have planned for 15 percent to be sick [and] at that number we wouldn’t close anything.... We’re pretty much trying to treat this as regular seasonal flu.”

According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roommates can safely remain together in their rooms if one of them contracts swine flu, as long as they maintain good hygiene and stay six feet apart whenever possible.

Roommates should cover their faces when they cough and sneeze, and regularly cleanse their hands, said Sue Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs.

“If people are uncomfortable or have problems with [staying with a sick roommate] they should contact the Dean of Students Office,” Schoenfeld said.

Purdy said the main symptom students should be aware of is a fever of more than 100 degrees. In addition to a fever, Duke students reported sore throats, muscle aches and coughing.

The CDC Web site recommends those infected with swine flu to rest, drink fluids and avoid others for at least 24 hours after their fevers have dissipated. Additionally, the virus only lives outside the body for a maximum of eight hours, so infected surfaces will no longer be contaminated after that period.

To prepare for the onset of flu season, professors have been notified to take precautionary measures in case a large number of students contract swine flu and classes must be canceled. Some larger classes have already tested distance-learning technology through taped lectures, Wasiolek said.

Provost Peter Lange could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.

At the moment, there are no plans in place to close facilities, Schoenfeld said, but added that the situation may change and will be addressed accordingly if the time comes.

The University launched the Care Meal Program today, which allows students to order lunch and dinner delivered to their rooms on their dining plans. The University has been recruiting student volunteers to bring food to their ill classmates.

Wasiolek said some Resident Assistants and Resident Coordinators have agreed to help with the program. She added that the University has also reached out to other student groups including Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, Campus Council and First-year Advisory Counselors.  

“I don’t know how many volunteers we have yet,” Wasiolek said. “The hope is that we will use volunteers over the next few weeks and see how it goes... we wouldn’t have to rely on student volunteers for a long period of time.”

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