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Harvard Dental School Closes After Registering Probable Swine Flu Case

Student 'doing well' according to University Health Services Director; Final Confirmation Expected Today

By Noah S. Rayman and Elyssa A. L. Spitzer, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard School of Dental Medicine will be closed today after a sample collected from a student there was deemed a "probable" case of swine flu late yesterday.

According to Director of University Health Services David S. Rosenthal ’59, state health officials are still waiting for final results from Atlanta, where the sample, originally taken on Monday, was sent to be tested at the Centers for Disease Control—currently the only facility in the country that has the capacity to issue final confirmation on swine flu.

"All I know is they have a positive culture for H1 and they sent it down to the Centers for Disease Control," Rosenthal said. "H," or hemagglutinin, is the protein marker that distinguishes the subtype of flu of which swine flu is a variety. Further testing is necessary for final confirmation of a swine flu diagnosis.

Final results from the CDC are expected today, according to Rosenthal. If confirmed, this will be the first swine flu case registered in Boston.

The student, who was started on anti-viral medication when flu was first diagnosed early this week, was at home and doing well, Rosenthal said last night.

"We’re in touch with him on a daily basis and he’s being monitored closely, and he’s doing fine," Rosenthal said.

The infected student had been in contact with an unidentified—and potentially untested—individual who had recently been to Mexico, said Rosenthal. Boston public health officials have distributed questionnaires to individuals who may have had recent contact with the student in search of other possible carriers of the virus, he said.

Over 200 students, faculty, and staff make up the Dental School, located across the river in the Longwood Medical Area, approximately four miles from the University’s main campus. Dental School affiliates are currently being screened by Boston Public Health Commission officials, according to a release from Rosenthal and University Provost Steven E. Hyman.

Harvard’s School of Public Health and Medical School, also located in the Longwood Medical Area, have taken precautions to prevent spread of the disease, which is raising health alerts nation-wide—eliminating self-service food stations to cut down on hygiene risks.

Rosenthal stressed last night that the best way to defend against transmission of swine flu is by practicing simple hygiene. In an e-mail sent to the Harvard community earlier this week, Rosenthal and Hyman urged students to wash their hands with soap and water, and to cover their mouths when coughing.

Thus far, the only two cases of swine flu confirmed in Massachusetts remain those contracted by two boys in Lowell, Mass., who are currently recovering from the illness after a recent trip to Mexico, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

But an update yesterday on the Web site for Amherst College in central Massachusetts stated that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health had found that two of the school’s flu cases were "probable" instances of swine flu.

People who experience symptoms of possible influenza infection—including sudden fever, cough, muscle aches, and sore throat—were urged in a statement issued by the Boston Public Health Commission today to contact their health care providers for additional guidance.

—Staff writer Edward-Michael Dussom contributed reporting to this article.
—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at nrayman@fas.harvard.edu.
—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at spitzer@fas.harvard.edu.

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