Mississippi College

MC Observes Swine Flu Precautions

May 4, 2009

Mississippi College leaders are monitoring developments as the nation battles swine flu health concerns.

Like officials at colleges, universities, and health centers plus millions of others in all 50 states, MC leaders are keeping a watchful eye on the latest news from the Centers for Disease Control. The news media and others are staying on top of the latest developments concerning the H1N1 influenza virus infection in Mexico, a number of states, and some other nations around the globe.

MC has a plan in place that reflects American College Health Association guidelines should an emergency arise said university nursing Dean Mary Jean Padgett.

Over the weekend, CDC officials said the swine flu epidemic spread deeper into the U.S., Europe, Latin America and in Canada. There were 241 confirmed cases in 34 states. So far, U.S. cases are fairly mild, with one recent death, a Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family. The virus has killed 19 in Mexico and sickened at least 506 between April 23 and April 28. At least 934 people were sickened worldwide.

U.S. authorities say they could eventually produce enough vaccines for everyone if necessary, but officials added that shots couldn't begin until fall at the earliest.

A group of 16 MC nursing students is scheduled to go to Mexico in July. It's part of an annual mission trip to that country that began in 1991. Three MC faculty members, including nursing Professor Mary Ann Henriques, are going. But that could change given the warnings from the state Department and CDC in Atlanta, she said. If the borders are closed, the trip to the mountains in Mexico will be canceled.

"We are monitoring our students. We are prepared to take whatever precautions are necessary," said Henriques. "Our nursing students are more aware of the spread of influenza anyway."

But rather than swine flu, their biggest concern right now, she said, is MC graduation this week on the Clinton campus.

"Everybody is just watching the situation," Henriques said. "We are educating our students relating to swine flu and infections," she said.

Such safety tips as washing hands are being stressed to students, and others at MC, she said. "It is good to have a lot of information, but at the same time people shouldn't panic." People should "use good common sense," the nursing professor said. For instance, people who are sick should stay home.

Officials at colleges and universities nationwide are advising people to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also an effective way to wash one's hands.

People are asked to monitor postings on the CDC web site, and contact local public health departments if questions or suspected cases arise.

Other health tips include people should refrain from touching their eyes, nose or mouth to avoid the spread of germs.

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