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Update from the Office of International Programs about H1N1 virus

The Office of International Programs continues to closely monitor the increased number of H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) cases around the world where Augsburg students, faculty, and staff are currently located or intend to travel for study programs.

We are continually monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. State Department. The health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are our first priorities.

There are currently 23 students from 15 different colleges and universities at our site in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Four of those students are from Augsburg. While a number of other schools, including the University of Minnesota, have opted to end current programs and have students return to the United States, our current semester program in Mexico is scheduled to be completed as planned.

That decision is based on several factors:

– According to the State of Morelos Secretary of Health, only four cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in the state. Of those four, only one case has been found in Cuernavaca, a city of about 350,000.

– Our students live in one of two houses owned and operated by Augsburg’s Center for Global Education (CGE) rather than in a hotel or in residence halls operated by a Mexican university. In addition, our students eat in the facilities where they live.

– Our students are not currently frequenting new locations, visiting public venues that may have high exposure risk, or taking classes in conjunction with an institution that is currently closed.

– In addition, remaining on location in Cuernavaca may present less risk than moving through the Mexico City airport at this time.

Ann Lutterman-Aguilar, our site director in Cuernavaca, met with students and urged them to let the staff know immediately if they come down with any flu-like symptoms. Masks have been purchased for our students and staff and a number of them are wearing them. Students have been advised not to travel and to certainly avoid the Mexico City area, where the H1N1 virus has been more widespread.

In addition, students were given information about alternative airports to use for their travels home when the semester ends in two weeks. It may be possible for students to fly out of Cuernavaca, Toluca or Acapulco rather than Mexico City.

We are also monitoring the spread of the H1N1 virus in countries where we have faculty-led programs scheduled for this summer, including: China, Egypt, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand and Nicaragua. Cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in New Zealand and a suspected case has been found in Italy.

We will continue to monitor information sources and remain in contact with program providers on the ground regarding the situation in destination countries in order to make prudent decisions. We will not hesitate to reroute or cancel programs as needed to keep students, faculty, and staff safe while participating in Augsburg programs abroad.

A decision on CGE summer programming in Cuernavaca is tentatively scheduled to be made on May 7. That is when the national closure of schools and universities in Mexico is scheduled to be lifted. At that point, more will be known about the H1N1 virus and to what degree it has spread.

Please contact one of the following persons if you have questions or need additional information:

Orv Gingerich

Leah Spinosa de Vega

Regina McGoff

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