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A Flu Update From President Emerson

Dear Parents, Friends, and Colleagues,

The flu season has finally come to Haverford. We began preparing for it last spring, but had no confirmed cases until last month. By last Friday, a peak of 30 students was being treated at our Health Services Center for type A flu. Currently 10 students are being treated. Fortunately, thus far those students who have come down with influenza have had mild cases, with fevers and other peak symptoms lasting 3 days or less.

Mild or not, however, we continue take all instances of flu-like illness seriously, meticulously following Center for Disease Control and PA State Department of Health guidelines for how best to diagnose, manage and control the spread of these illnesses. These flu-specific measures have been in place since last spring, when Catherine Sharbaugh RN, MN, CRNP our Health Services Center Director since 1995, formalized these plans after consultation with the CDC and PASDH. Ms. Sharbaugh is extraordinarily attentive, caring and conscientious, and played the key role in establishing Haverford's HSC as the first nurse practitioner-run clinic in Pennsylvania to be certified by the American Ambulatory Association of Health Care. Our clinic is run like many primary care practices, with traditional office hours supplemented by an on-call nurse 24/7 while Haverford is in session, but with a crucial difference: Catherine and her staff will (and do) come to campus to see patients off-hours, if after phone call discussion with a student the nurse on call determines that it is necessary to do so. (Emergencies of any sort have always been directed to Bryn Mawr Hospital, five minutes from campus.)

Haverford Students do avail themselves of the on-call nurse (15 this past weekend alone), a service that is prominently promoted on both our Health Services web page as well as in the flu information pages and in periodic emails that have been sent to campus updating the situation. In addition, students can receive medication throughout the week and on weekends – including Tamiflu during this current flu season, to potentially shorten the course of a suspected flu case – when it is medically indicated.

Students with flu or flu-like illness are being instructed to remain in their rooms until they are fever-free for 24 hours. As noted above, this has been averaging 1-3 days, during which time they do not go to class, see friends, or play sports. Our plan for managing the recuperative stage remains today what it has been since last spring when our response strategy was developed:

  • all such students, while asked to check in with Health Services daily, are contacted by their Dean on a daily basis;
  • symptomatic care is provided using 'cold kits', available in the Health Center, Security and for purchase in the bookstore, with instructions on how to replenish these promulgated on our web site, along with reminders that these are available 24 hrs daily at the CVS just outside the College gates.
  • all (even those not on the meal plan) are getting go-packs of food, either directly from Health Services upon diagnosis or from Dining Services thereafter. Those delivering the follow-up go-packs wear masks, gloves and, to further reduce any risk of infection, are instructed to knock on the recipient’s door, announce the delivery, leave the go-pack outside the door and leave before the patient opens the door. Currently, only a small number of students are opting to receive refill go-packs; Director of Dining Services John Francone reports talking with students who are feeling better so quickly that they resume their use of the Dining Center before needing subsequent refills.

While we hope for speedy end to flu season, in my experience “hope” is not a method. That’s why we have relied on an action plan to address the needs of this community, one that has been months in the making and, we believe, is effectively meeting the challenge at hand. These plans, reflecting the best standards of personal and community care identified by the CDC and PADPH, have worked extremely well to date. We have been told by the state Dept. of Public Health to expect H1N1 vaccine in late November/early December and will run an immunization clinic at that time. And know that if the health situation were to worsen in any way that requires change in practice, we will continue to work closely with the public health authorities to immediately respond appropriately.

In closing, know that the safety and security of every member of our campus community is our priority, at this and at all times. I encourage you to avail yourselves of the many services and sources of information that are available, starting with the flu update page on our website

Thanks for your interest, and stay healthy!


Stephen G. Emerson ‘74, MD, PhD


Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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