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Western Oregon University closes for four days pending H1N1 virus confirmation

WOU student has probable case of the H1N1 virus

April 30, 2009 -- Monmouth, Oregon: Western Oregon University announced this evening that it will be closing the campus through Monday, May 4, pending a probable H1N1 virus case involving a WOU student, and in an action designed to ensure student health and safety. Earlier this week the student exhibited flu-like symptoms and tested positive for influenza A at the campus Student Health Center. The student, who lives off-campus, is in the care of family and is receiving medical treatment.

WOU officials notified the Polk County Health Department and the specimen was sent to the State of Oregon Public Health Department Lab. This afternoon, WOU officials received notification that the specimen would require further testing by the Center for Disease Control as indications are probable that the diagnosis is a case of the 2009 H1N1 influenza (commonly referred to as swine flu). The results of the CDC testing are expected by Monday.

John Minahan, president of WOU, said, "We have been consulting closely with local and state health officials and the Oregon University System, and made the decision this evening, upon advice from the State Public Health Department, to close the campus. Until we determine if this is the H1N1 virus, we are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our students and the entire campus community."

At this time, all on-campus university classes, events, and other activities are canceled through Monday. This includes sporting events and conferences scheduled for WOU facilities.

Polk County Health is working with WOU to contact members of the campus community who were in close contact with the student and to monitor those individuals very closely. The PCH and WOU will be providing advice to the campus community through email and other channels on how to cooperate with efforts to limit any spread of this flu, and how to identify signs of the flu and steps they should take if they need treatment.

George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, said, "It is very important that until we have confirmation that the WOU student has the H1N1 virus, that we close the campus and cancel all on-campus university events. We realize that cancellations of this type impact many people, but we cannot risk exposure to the campus community or others who will be visiting the campus this weekend for sports and other activities." Pernsteiner noted that all OUS campuses have developed protocols for handling these types of incidences, and that these plans have helped WOU handle the situation quickly and effectively. "We wish to thank the on-campus health professionals at Western, the Polk County Health Department, and the Oregon Department of Public Health for their quick responses and their advice on how to ensure the safety of the campus community."

The decision to re-open campus will be determined when the results of the CDC testing have been received, and in consultation with local and state health officials. WOU is asking anyone who experiences any flu-like symptoms to please seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility.

WOU is setting up a hotline for campus community members to call with any questions or concerns that they may have and will be distributing that to the campus this evening. At the recommendation of the Oregon Department of Public Health, WOU officials are encouraging students living on campus to continue living in their residence halls until more definitive information is obtained. Students living off campus are asked to stay within their current living community. All faculty and staff are requested to stay home, unless contacted by their supervisor.

WOU has an enrollment of over 5,000 students plus about 700 faculty and staff members.

For more information about the H1N1 virus go to the Oregon Department of Human Services Web site at www.flu.oregon.gov. The Oregon Public Health Web site is updated regularly to provide information such as how to identify swine flu, prevent its spread as well as materials that employers, medical providers, schools, parents and others may use.

In a press release yesterday, the Oregon Department of Human Services offered the following guidance:

Actions people can take to prevent the spread of the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve, not with your hand;
  • Stay home if you are sick;
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are ill; and
  • Practice other good health habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting sufficient rest and not smoking.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease in pigs whose spread to humans has been historically rare in the U.S. Its symptoms are similar to those of normal seasonal influenza such as fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing, sometimes accompanied by runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Eating pork that has been properly handled and cooked will not transmit the virus.

For more information about swine flu, visit the following resources:

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of twelve members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to: www.ous.edu.



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