October 14, 2009
Boston College Community:
It is now one month into the first semester and I would like to update you on the H1N1 flu situation on campus. Like the rest of the country, we have had a continuing number of students with Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) coming to the Boston College Health Center. Again, like the rest of the country, the cases have been relatively mild, with no hospitalizations or serious illnesses. Of importance is the fact that many students who thought they had ILI actually had other common viruses that are usual for young people of the college population at this time of year. In addition, many students have had such mild sickness that they do not seek any medical care and are usually back to normal in two to four days, with attention to common sense everyday health practices. Instead of clusters of ill students, the cases we have seen are sporadic and do not seem to spread rapidly to friends or roommates or to a particular floor or dorm. We continue to monitor the situation carefully and will alter our response to accommodate any change in the situation.
While the academic directives published on our website have encouraged professors to be lenient with students who are ill, the fact is that most students have missed very little class and study time due to the H1N1 virus. I want to encourage all students, faculty, staff and families to continue the good health practices we have emphasized in previous correspondence. While H1N1 has caused heightened concern, when illness of any type occurs we all should be good citizens, family members and teammates, and keep appropriate social distance, avoid going to work or class with a fever or significant symptoms, cover coughs and wash hands frequently, etc.
The national experience mirrors our own. The latest statistics from the American College Health Association (ACHA) recognize 34,000 cases of presumed ILI. There have been only 57 hospitalizations and no deaths. The ACHA sample, while not representing the entire college and university experience nationally, is significant, and there have been no reports indicating significant deviation from the norm. So far, there has been no indication of any mutation of the virus that would make it more deadly than the usual seasonal flu virus.
Nationally, the cases of people who became severely ill from H1N1 are most often those with underlying chronic health problems. For that reason, we urge all in our Boston College community who have pre-existing health problems to be vaccinated for seasonal flu, pneumonia, and H1N1 as soon as possible.
As of now, the first shipment of H1N1 vaccine will be delivered to colleges in Massachusetts in the middle of November. While our first shipment of the seasonal flu vaccine has arrived, we were just informed that because of national shortages, we will not be receiving the full shipment we had requested. As a result, while the Flu Fairs for students will go on as scheduled on October 14th and 29th from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Yawkey Center's Murray Conference Room, the Employee Flu Fair originally scheduled for October 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. has been altered. Specifically, those employees who have appointments scheduled between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., will proceed as scheduled. Those whose appointments were scheduled between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. have been rescheduled for November 10 in Gasson 100. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this national shortage of vaccines.
With all of us here at Boston College working together, and with a little luck, we can maintain a healthy campus and have minimal disruption to campus life in the coming months.
Dr. Thomas Nary
BC Health Services