As of Wednesday, at least three possible cases of swine flu, also known as influenza A H1N1, have been identified in Connecticut.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has requested 134,00 doses of antiviral medication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is about 25 percent of the state’s share of the national stockpile. At present, the state has over 11,000 doses on hand. On the governor’s orders, the Connecticut Department of Health plans to distribute 10,000 treatment courses of antiviral medication to the state’s acute-care hospitals.
At Yale, University officials are urging caution. Administrators are not only preparing for a potential outbreak on campus, but also considering limiting students’ foreign travel.
“We are now responding in a concerted and expansive way to make sure that we are responsive to the challenges being presented today,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview Monday.
She added that the University’s current plan for swine flu is based on its preparations over the past two years for a possible bird flu outbreak. Although the challenges swine flu presents are not insignificant, she said, they are decidedly less severe than those an outbreak of bird flu would have presented.
Officials at Undergraduate Career Services said they will announce next week whether summer study programs and internships requiring Elis to travel abroad will be delayed or canceled.
UCS Director Philip Jones said the concern is twofold. On the one hand, UCS is wary of sending students to highly infected countries such as Mexico. On the other hand, he said, some countries may not accept students coming from countries where swine flu has been detected, such as the United States.
For now, however, Jones said the summer programs will continue as planned.
“Currently, it’s all still on,” he said, adding that plans are still “extremely fluid” and that the University, not UCS, will ultimately make the decision.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization raised its global threat level to five, its second-highest level. The Centers for Disease Control reported Wednesday that the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States had grown to 91.
In interviews Tuesday, five Yale epidemiology experts urged caution and good hygiene and said it is still too early to draw many firm conclusions on the virus, as it is still in its early stages.
“It’s a good time to do what mother told you: Wash your hands; cover your mouth if you sneeze; stay home if you’re sick,” said Louise Dembry, the hospital epidemiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Just be cautious, pay attention. Other than that, people shouldn’t change their current activities — other than going to Mexico.”
She added that individuals have to be prepared for the possibility it will become more widespread, though at the present the emergency room has not seen an increase in volume due to concerns about swine flu.
Jeffrey Kahn, associate research scientist of epidemiology and public health, said that while no cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Connecticut, he anticipates this will change.
“It would not surprise me if the disease begins to show up here,” he said. “The real question is how severe these cases are going to be.”
Schools in East Haddam and Wethersfield have been ordered closed for the second day today after community members who had recently traveled to Mexico began to exhibit flu-like symptoms. A public forum to address swine flu concerns will be held today at 10 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.