MIDDLEBURY — So far, despite rumors to the contrary, Middlebury College has seen no confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus this year.
That’s according to Dr. Mark Peluso, the director of the college’s health center. Peluso said the school is seeing some cases of “influenza-like” illness, but none of the samples the college has sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tested positive for the swine flu.
The college isn’t testing every student who shows symptoms of the flu, though. Symptoms include a fever over 100 degrees and a cough or sore throat. If the school were to test every student, Peluso said, “we’d overwhelm the lab.”
So for now, students demonstrating “influenza-like” symptoms are being asked to “socially isolate,” Peluso said. That means staying out of class and avoiding the dining halls. Students can have meals delivered to their rooms instead, Peluso said.
Roughly 40 students have gone into self-isolation.
So far, the college has been fortunate. As a “sentinel testing site” for the CDC, the college ships a few swab samples to the CDC every week to test for the swine flu. The sentinel sites let the CDC track the progress of the H1N1 virus, and so far Vermont has been less affected than other parts of the country.
Larger universities have already seen dozens of cases of the virus this fall. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, school officials have reported that 175 students are showing signs of the virus. Bowdoin College has seen more than 100 cases, and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has seen more than 800 cases of the flu.
Just how hard hit Middlebury College’s student body will be by H1N1 will depend on when vaccines arrive for both the seasonal flu and the swine flu, Peluso said. A delay in shipments means the college hasn’t administered any vaccines yet, though Peluso is confident that when the vaccines arrive, there will be plenty of doses to go around.
With students returning this week from their fall break, though, Peluso said it’s certainly possible that students were exposed to the virus. For the time being, healthy students are being asked to follow the common sense approach to fighting off the flu. Students are advised not to overexert themselves, to cover their mouths when they cough, to wash their hands frequently and to stay out of class when they’re feeling ill.
That’s helping, Peluso said, as are his frequent meetings with the state Department of Health and Porter Medical Center.
“There’s been a lot of communication and a lot of good will and effort put forth by those institutions to really try to help us and help the community get ready for this,” Peluso said.