Test results suggest arrival of H1N1 virus at Penn State Erie

Two students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, have tested positive for Type A influenza, suggesting they may be the college's first cases of H1N1 virus.

One student was tested in her hometown over the weekend and is remaining at home to rest and recover. The other student was tested this morning at the college's Health and Wellness Center and is also returning home, following recommended self-isolation guidelines. A confirmation of their respective diagnoses is expected within the next 48-72 hours.

"Testing positive for Type A influenza does not establish for certain that someone has the H1N1 virus," said Patty Pasky McMahon, nurse practitioner and coordinator of Health and Wellness Services at Penn State Erie. "These could be instances of seasonal flu, but since it's really quite early for the emergence of that and there have been no reports of seasonal flu virus in the region at this point, it’s most likely these are our first known cases of H1N1."

Since the beginning of the fall term, students, faculty and staff of Penn State Erie have been receiving communications about preventive measures to take to stay healthy and reduce the spread of illness. These include thorough hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and getting the seasonal flu vaccine. Signs and symptoms of the flu and what to do in the event of illness are part of the communications.

"As in the case of any illness that can be easily spread, our message to faculty, staff and students alike is to isolate themselves from others if they are sick," said Jack Burke, chancellor of Penn State Erie. "We're instructing students who live off campus to stay at home if ill and those living on campus to consider returning home to recover. Especially when there are few cases, isolation is more likely to work and keep the number of individuals affected low."

In the event a resident student is ill and cannot return home, it is the policy of Penn State Behrend to make alternative housing arrangements for well roommates to avoid displacing ill students. Housing and Food Services also has a process in place so that resident students who are ill and cannot return home can order food and liquids to be brought to their rooms.

According to Pasky McMahon, students coming to the health center with influenza-like symptoms are being given standard treatment recommendations that include bed rest, fluid intake, and the use of over-the-counter medications to reduce pain, fever, coughs and other symptoms. Flu sufferers are being advised to isolate themselves from others until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

For more information on Penn State’s preparation for H1N1 this fall, visit http://www.flu.psu.edu/ online. General information about H1N1 influenza is available at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm.

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Last Updated September 16, 2009