Influenza is in the news this winter, as scientists and government authorities try to control the spread of the H5N1 virus - a strain infecting migratory and farm birds around the world. So far, human cases have been relatively rare and the virus hasn't mutated into a highly contagious, human-to-human form of the illness. But pandemic flu outbreaks do periodically occur and government officials are monitoring this flu season closely, harnessing medical advances and using lessons learned from previous outbreaks.
A subgroup of Dartmouth's Emergency Management Group (EMG) is also monitoring developments worldwide, putting plans in place to deal with a potential H5N1 outbreak and carefully examining what that might mean for the College. The EMG works closely with local, state and federal agencies and has a valuable partner nearby with the researchers and clinicians at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC).
While there is no vaccine for H5N1, experts strongly recommend that people be immunized for the more common strains of flu. Dartmouth students have been receiving flu shots at Dick's House, as have many faculty and staff members. DHMC is also providing flu shot clinics for the Upper Valley community.
The typical flu season begins around Thanksgiving and peaks after Christmas. While no one can say at this point if the season will be characterized by mild influenza or by more serious concerns around H5N1, College officials are carefully tracking all the important sources of information and will continue to refine plans for dealing with a health-related, or any other emergency situation.
By LAUREL STAVIS
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Last Updated: 5/30/08