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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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CDC confirms 8 Evanston cases of swine flu

Evanston had its first cases of swine flu confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city announced Thursday evening.

The CDC confirmed eight Evanston cases of swine flu Thursday, according to a press release from the City of Evanston. Every case has either fully recovered or is on the way to a full recovery with no complications.

Each case occurred in a young individual, with ages ranging from three to 28 years old, according to the release.

Carl Caneva, the acting director of Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department, gave suggestions for avoiding the virus.

“At this time (we are) recommending that the primary means of reducing the spread of influenza in schools is to focus on early identification of ill students and staff, staying home when ill, and good cough and hand hygiene etiquette,” he said in the release.

He also recommended keeping Evanston schools open.

“School closure is not advised for a suspected or confirmed case of influenza A (H1N1) and, in general, is not advised unless there is a magnitude of faculty or student absenteeism that interferes with the school’s ability to function,” Caneva said.

Though there are no reports of Northwestern students with the virus, it is affecting some students’ travel plans this summer.

The NU-run Public Health in Mexico program has been canceled for the summer. The students registered to participate in the program were notified by the International Program Development office Wednesday.

“Twenty-two students were ready to go and already ticketed, but we decided it would be too risky to send such a large group of students,” said Devora Grynspan, director of IPD. “We had to make the decision based on the information we had.”

The NU Mexico City trip is an annual eight-week program during which students work in health agencies and clinics and also conduct research.

“The nature of the program brings the students in contact with a lot of people,” Grynspan said. “It’s not like students are isolated.”

Several other U.S. universities including Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, Pennsylvania State University at Altoona and Suffolk University have already cancelled their summer study abroad programs in Mexico. The University of Minnesota advised its students who are currently in Mexico this semester to return to the United States.

Many of the students who planned to participate in NU’s Mexico City trip are pursuing a global health minor. Under this program, students are required to participate in a public health program in a foreign country for one quarter. Aside from the summer program in Mexico, NU also offers a summer program in Beijing and school-year programs in Europe, South Africa and Uganda. NU faced a similar problem in 2003 when the Beijing public health program was cancelled out of concern about the spread of SARS in Asia.

Despite other options, many students are drawn to the eight-week Mexico City program because it is NU’s only program in Latin America.

“If I’m going on a public health program, it would be really interesting to go to a developing country where public health is more of a prominent problem,” said Anshika Kaushik, a Weinberg freshman who signed up for the Mexico trip.

Currently, the office is working to help students find alternative public health programs. Additional spots have been added for the summer China trip, but some students may opt to participate in the Mexico program next summer or participate in a non-NU program, said Vic Flessas, assistant director of IPD.

Flessas said the cancellation of fall non-NU sponsored study abroad programs has not yet been determined.

Donald Misch, executive director of NU Health Service, said it is difficult to predict the spread of swine flu in the next few months.

“Everything is super fluid,” Misch said. “Two months from now you may wish you went to Mexico, but if you have to buy tickets today, you have to decide on less than complete information. It’s no one’s fault, just the nature of the situation.”

Alexandra Finkel contributed reporting.

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Related:Evanston hospital suspects case of swine flu 5/01/09Evanston residents, NU students weigh in on the swine flu 5/01/09Swine flu outbreaks hit close to home 4/30/09NU, Evanston announce swine flu response procedures 4/28/09

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CDC confirms 8 Evanston cases of swine flu