DESPITE extensive efforts to prevent the spread of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, four swine flu cases emerged on campus in a span of three days, forcing the one-week closure of three buildings just two weeks after University officials delayed the opening of classes precisely to avoid a flu outbreak.

The St. Martin de Porres Building which houses the colleges of medicine, rehabilitation sciences, and nursing was shut down last June 22 with the discovery of the University’s first A(H1N1) case, followed by the Roque Ruaño or Engineering Building last June 23 where a student tested positive for swine flu.

Training at the gym was suspended until July 2 when a female athlete was found to have A(H1N1) also last June 23.

Last June 24, the UST-Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy became the fifth academic unit to shut down with the discovery of a new case of A(H1N1), bringing the number of people downed by the novel flu strain in the University to four. The accounting student council said the fourth case is a student. No other details were released.

Classes resume June 30 for all five colleges, and students told to go on quarantine were excused from PE and NSTP classes. The Institute of Physical Education and Athletics will be open for some athletes.

Except for the engineering case, all flu cases had a history of travel, and apparently ignored instructions by administrators to go on quarantine to avoid infecting others, Health Service chief Dr. Salve Olalia said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an influenza pandemic last June 11, less than two months after the first cases were found in the United States and Mexico. The Philippines’ first case was confirmed last May 21 — a female traveller who had arrived from the United States and Canada last May 18.

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The Health department reported the biggest number of confirmed cases last June 24, 131, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 604. Worldwide, the WHO has reported 52,160 cases with 231 deaths from 94 reporting countries.

Olalia stressed the observance of precautionary measures, asking those who have travelled abroad to observe at least a 10-day quarantine.

Secretary General Fr. Isidro Abaño, in a memorandum last June 22, said: “To prevent the spread of the AH1N1 virus, we enjoin all the members of the Thomasian community to strictly adhere to the guidelines released by the Department of Health and the UST Task Force for AH1N1 as circulated by the Office of the Secretary General.”

“We pray to God that this pandemic that has descended upon us will soon come to pass and that the members of our community who are now sick will soon regain their health. We also place ourselves under the care and protection of Mary, our Mother, Help of the Sick,” he added.

Satellite offices were opened at the Tan Yan Kee Students’ Center – Room 101 for Nursing and Rehabilitation Sciences and Room 3G (third floor) for Medicine – to accommodate office transactions.

Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas said there was a possibility of another movement in the academic calendar due to the one-week closure of the Medicine building. There will be a contingency plan, she said.

“No [Nursing] student will be entertained in the [satellite] office since they are all under quarantine,” said Vargas.

UST moved the opening of classes by a week to June 15 to allow school officials and students who had travelled abroad to quarantine themselves. Medical personnel have been stationed at the lobbies of all buildings since the new academic year opened.

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Olalia said students flocked to the Health Service out of panic but most of the cases involved only upper respiratory tract infection.

She denied rumors that the virus came from Korean guests.

“All schedules of foreigners coming [for symposia or talks] have been cancelled,” Olalia said.

UST was placed at Level 3 of the Department of Health Response Level Guide for Schools, which means “confirmed case in school” but “no confirmed community level transmission.”

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