Health advisory: letter to the Vassar community

May 1, 2009

To members of the Vassar community:

As I’m sure you’ve read, the number of people in the U.S. who have contracted the swine/H1N1 flu virus, and the geographic areas affected, have increased quickly and significantly.  Several college campuses nationally have been affected, including some in the Northeast region. Currently there are no confirmed cases in Dutchess County.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded its pandemic alert to level 5, meaning that the virus is contagious and can spread in exposed communities from person to person in the same way the seasonal flu does.

To remind you, flu viruses are spread through inhaling the droplets produced by coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. This is why cough etiquette -- covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and then throwing the tissue away – is an important precaution. Close personal contact is also likely to spread the virus, as well as contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by respiratory droplets. Frequent hand washing is an important preventive measure, especially after you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since germs can spread this way. If you become ill with flu-like symptoms, seek medical care and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

We ask that you please follow these points:
  • If you are a student and have flu-like symptoms, seek treatment at the Health Service (845 437-5800).
  • Employees with flu-like symptoms should seek treatment from their own medical providers.
  • This is a time of year when there are many campus gatherings. If you are ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms, please do not attend these events. Founder's Day is a good example.
  • Please do not invite guests to campus who may be ill.
  • There is a travel advisory to Mexico. In addition, we encourage you to carefully consider all non-essential travel, especially to areas experiencing outbreaks (see WHO recommendations for travelers at
While campus events are currently continuing on schedule, developing circumstances may require changes. We will provide notifications as promptly as possible.

Thanks for all your cooperation.  Again, if you are a student and have questions contact the Health Service. If you are an employee contact your health care provider. I also point you to the newsletter, Student Health 101, which has valuable information for everyone (available at


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

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, May 1, 2009