Health advisory: letter to the Vassar community

April 27, 2009

To the Vassar Community,

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) in California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio and New York. The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, and headache. Thus far, the cases of the swine flu in the U.S. have been mild and self-limited. Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection and whether additional people have been infected.

The CDC is working with local officials to monitor and manage the situation. To date, no travel advisory has been issued, and what is called for are common sense precautions. Here is what this means for Vassar:

  1. Classes and all college business continue as normal.
  2. If you are a student and have flu-like symptoms, call the Vassar College Health Service at (845) 437-5800.
  3. Employees with flu-like symptoms should call their doctor.
  4. Everyone should use these common sense precautions to stay healthy and avoid infection:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (especially after coughing or sneezing). Alternatively, use alcohol-based cleanse
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away.

The college is working closely with local and state health officials, and we will keep you informed of the developing situation. To learn more about swine flu and the CDC investigation, please visit the CDC Swine Flu website The World Health Organization has also posted information on its swine flu website


Irena T. Balawajder, M.D.
Director of Vassar College Health Service

Download the following Swine Flu Guide

How Are You Feeling? A Swine Flu Guide

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that doesn’t normally impact humans. However, it is contagious and is currently spreading from human to human. This typically occurs the same way as seasonal flu: by coming in contact with infected people who are coughing or sneezing.

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similarto the symptoms of regular human flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Take this condition seriously, as swine flu varies from mild to severe. If you feel sick, see a doctor.  You may need to limit your contact with others so you don’t infect them.

Avoid spreading germs by:

  • Not touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (and then throwing that tissue out!)
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing, or using alcohol-based hand cleaners

Emergency Warning Signs

Seek emergency medical care if you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

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

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, April 27, 2009