University News

Study Abroad Trip to Mexico Canceled

April 30, 2009


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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- Western Illinois University has canceled its first summer study abroad trip to Mexico upon a recommendation from the host institution, the Universidad Autonoma de Queretero, due to the recent swine flu outbreak, according to WIU Provost and Academic Vice President Jack Thomas.

The first trip, which included four Western students and one faculty member, was originally scheduled to depart May 18. The other trips, scheduled for mid-June, July and August, are on hold until further notice. In addition, a WIU exchange program, in which students from a Mexico-based university are scheduled to attend summer school at WIU-Macomb, has been postponed until further notice.

Earlier this week, Western halted all nonessential travel to Mexico based on a travel health warning issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluMexico.aspx). In addition to ceasing travel to Mexico, University-sponsored travel groups to other destinations are being briefed on the situation, as outlined in the University's pandemic plan, Harris added.

"If individuals choose to travel to affected areas on their own, we ask that upon their return they closely monitor their health and seek medical attention if they begin feeling ill," said Mary Margaret Harris, director of Western's Beu Health Center. "Employees and students who develop flu-like symptoms [fever over 100 degrees, accompanied by a cough or sore throat], are asked to stay home for seven days after the onset of illness or at least 24 hours after the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer."

The CDC has posted a list of Frequently Asked Questions at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, nine probable cases of swine flu have been reported in persons from Cook, Kane, Lake and DuPage counties in Illinois, with no deaths reported at this time. Most cases outside of Mexico are reported to be mild influenza illnesses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the pandemic level has been elevated to five (5). WIU's response to a level 5 announcement is to further prepare for a potential outbreak, Harris noted. Western's complete Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan is available online at http://www.wiu.edu/rmep/plans.php.

Beu Health Center staff is continuing to perform routine influenza surveillance. If an individual comes to the health center with flu-like symptoms, Beu's healthcare providers will ask a series of questions as a precautionary measure to determine if the illness is perhaps related to Swine Flu, Harris added. WIU-Quad Cities students, faculty and staff experiencing flu-like symptoms should see their local physician or healthcare provider immediately.

Seasonal flu symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Reported swine flu symptoms may also include runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

According to Dr. Richard Iverson, Beu Health Center medical director, a few basic tips to help protect from catching most viruses include washing hands thoroughly – and often – with soap and water (use alcohol-based hand gels when soap is not available); cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the used tissue in a wastebasket; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; and limit or avoid close contact with individuals who are ill.

"Above all, if you are not feeling well, stay home. If you exhibit any flu-like symptoms, I would advise seeing your healthcare provider as soon as possible," Iverson noted.

For more information on Western's pandemic response, contact Beu Health Center at (309) 298-1888.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations