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Loyola continues to monitor US swine flu outbreak

Loyola press release - August 24, 2009

Loyola University New Orleans is actively tracking the H1N1 swine flu virus in the United States and is working to ensure the health and safety of every member of the university community as students return to campus.

Key Loyola faculty and staff members have been meeting regularly to review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health recommendations and guidelines on preventing, identifying and containing the spread of the virus.

Loyola’s H1N1 task force grew out of a similar working group established in 2007 by Vice President of Student Affairs M.L. Petty, Ph.D., to address the avian flu outbreak.

“More than two years ago, I requested the director of counseling and health services study and create our pandemic flu plan,” Petty said, “so this is not new to us.”

“Our group, led by Dr. Alicia Bourque, includes Loyola administrators and others with vast knowledge and contacts in public health.”

Swine flu, which was first detected in people in the U.S. in April 2009, is spread from person to person in much the same way as regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, according to the CDC. People can spread swine flu to others through shaking hands, coughing, sneezing or touching objects contaminated by the virus and then touching their mouths, eyes or noses.

However, much can be done to prevent its spread.

The CDC suggests frequent hand washing with antibacterial soap, especially after coughing or sneezing, and using alcohol-based hand cleaners to guard against the flu. They also advise using tissues to cover coughs or sneezes and then immediately discarding them.

Student Health Services and the University Counseling Center have distributed flyers and posters to campus departments and will continue to send campus-wide e-mails with information about symptoms and treatment. Every student will receive swine flu information at orientation, and the Office of Residential Life staff was trained on how to prevent and recognize flu symptoms.

Antibacterial hand sanitizers will be available in Student Affairs offices, residence halls, the Student Health Services and other buildings on campus. Masks are available upon request at Student Health Services, and Loyola will offer vaccinations for the seasonal flu strains, until the swine flu vaccination becomes available.

As a precaution, Loyola Dining Services is evaluating its dish sanitation process to make sure protocol is being followed. They are also placing hand sanitizers in the dining areas and re-emphasizing hand washing requirements to staff.

“Loyola is taking a proactive stance in response to this outbreak,” said Bourque, director of counseling and health services. “We are trying to get information on the virus to our community, but we are also prepared, should someone become sick.”

Flu-like symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills or fatigue. According to Leah Bowers, Student Health Services nurse practitioner, clinic personnel can swab to detect flu on location and can prescribe appropriate medications as needed.

For more information, please contact the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888.