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April 27th, 2009

Members of the University at Albany Community:

As many of you are aware the White House has declared a public health emergency due to concerns of a new influenza strain originating from pigs – referred to as the “Swine Flu.” This virus is a new strain of the Influenza A virus which causes typical flu-like symptoms.

In Mexico, at least 1,400 people have been clearly diagnosed with this virus, though it is believed many more may have been infected but were not diagnosed. A number of people have died.

There have been 20 confirmed cases of the Swine Flu in the U.S. In none of these cases did the infected individual have anything more than a mild illness. None of these patients required any treatment other than the routine treatment for seasonal (regular) influenza. None were hospitalized.

Confirmed cases of Swine Flu have been reported in Mexico, New York City, Ohio, Texas, Kansas and throughout Canada.

Please be advised that anyone with a history of travel to these areas in the past seven to ten days with symptoms of a respiratory illness may be infected with Swine Flu and should be tested. The University’s Health Center is able to collect specimens for testing which are then sent to an outside lab for analysis and will provide further advice and treatment as warranted.

The symptoms of the Swine Flu are exactly the same as a typical flu and include sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, fever and muscle aches. Even the mildest form of the flu, including Swine Flu, will result in symptoms similar to a simple cold with the possibility of fever and muscle aches in severe forms.

At this point, the University is monitoring the situation with the assistance of the Albany County Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

As with all respiratory infections the best way to minimize risk of illness is by avoiding the virus. The flu is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and other people breathe in the infected air droplets.

To avoid catching or spreading the flu, you are encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    When you are sick, keep your distance from others (minimum three to six feet) to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Seek medical attention when you are sick.
    This will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
    It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Coughing or sneezing into the bend of your elbow, when tissues are not available, directs the cough/sneeze downward and is helpful.
  • Clean your hands often.
    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Twenty seconds of hand washing with hot water and soap or use of a disinfectant hand lotion is recommended.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Information from the Center for Disease Control on Swine Flu is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/investigation.htm

I will update you should additional information become available. If you have any questions not answered by the above resources, please send them to askUHC@uamail.albany.edu.

We will do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

Peter Vellis, DO
Medical Director
University Health Center