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Purdue monitors swine flu, issues precautionary reminders

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In response to a serious new flu strain that began in Mexico, Purdue University on Monday (April 27) urged faculty, staff and students to take precautions against the spread of the communicable disease and avoid travel to infected areas.

The university’s pandemic preparedness committee, created during the avian flu alert in 2006, convened to address the potential threat.

“The university is monitoring the situation closely,” said James Westman, the committee co-chair and director of the student health center. “There is no indication of any imminent local emergency, but we are working proactively should the need arise.”

Those who visited Mexico during spring break are well past the incubation and contagion stages, he said. Purdue’s study abroad program, however, is on alert for its five students attending classes in Mexico, said Brian Harley of International Programs and director of Study Abroad. None are taking classes in Mexico City, where universities have been closed.

“Right now, there appears to be no cause for alarm,” Harley said, “but we are watching very closely and are in touch daily with our counterparts there.”

Although the disease has been blamed for deaths in Mexico, the severity varies within Mexico and is currently less severe outside Mexico. This could indicate that there is more than one strain of the virus, Westman said.

As with most viruses, flu is spread in several ways: orally, by ingestion, by inhalation, or by splashing contamination on abraded skin or into puncture wounds. To prevent spread, Westman said:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cough into your sleeve or a tissue to avoid spreading germs. Do not cough into your hands.
  • Put tissue in a wastebasket.
  • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for 20 seconds and rinse hands well. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and turn the knob on the door handle.
  • Cook pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry parts to 170 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure you have killed bacteria and viruses.
  • Avoid contact with people who are ill.

If you are ill with flulike symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and body aches, stay home. If symptoms worsen, contact your health-care provider. Purdue students may contact the student health center at 765-494-1700 or go to the center’s urgent-care entrance off University Street.

The incubation period for the flu is normally 24-48 hours, and the contagious period lasts for seven days after the onset of symptoms. If you are a student and contract this strain of flu, alert your professor that you will be absent for that period and provide a medical release upon returning.

“If you know of anyone who has flulike symptoms, urge them to contact their health-care provider,” Westman said. “Also let others know. For students, tell your residence hall assistants and leaders in fraternities, sororities and co-ops so they can help.

“We need to watch out for each other.”

Basic flu symptoms include fever, cough/sore throat, fatigue and body aches. Symptoms calling for action vary by age. For infants and children, look for:

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking or interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held
  • Flulike symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

For adults, look for:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

The university’s pandemic plan is available at

Purdue updates will be posted on the Purdue home page and will be shared on the “Purdue Emergency Notification” site on Facebook at

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