READ THE SIGN. Students were not allowed entry into the San Martin de Porres Building for a couple of days, due to a confirmed case of A(H1N1). Photo By EMIL KARLO A. DELA CRUZThe A(H1N1) flu virus has arrived in UST, but Thomasians are not taking matters sitting down.

Following a new Department of Health memorandum, the school has modified its preparedness plan against the flu virus, refusing to immediately suspend classes and operations in infected areas.

Four Thomasians have gone down with the virus as of June 24, prompting school officials to shut down four buildings for at least a week.

As per government protocol, the patients were not identified. Health Service director Maria Salve Olalia said they were now “recovering.”

Despite the four cases, Secretary General Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P. said there would be “no university-wide suspension of classes in compliance with the DOH directive.”

Olalia said three of the patients had traveled abroad while the fourth one from the Faculty of Engineering was supposedly infected by a friend from another university.

Health authorities insisted that the flu virus was mild, noting that 85 percent of the more than 720 patients in the country had all been cured. The lone fatality—a 49-year-old congressional worker—died of a lingering heart ailment, the DOH said.

The DOH argued that there was no sense in suspending classes in case of a community-level outbreak because students would be out in the community anyway.

The better approach, it said, was to keep patients on self-quarantine for at least 10 days.

“If cases arises to Level four or confirmed community level transmission, schools need not suspend class except when unusually severe illness simultaneously manifests in a large number of ill students and/or school staff,” it said in its revised guidelines for schools.

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Shutdown

If a lone student got infected, the agency said officials should suspend class only for the class or block involve. The patient then was advised to seek medical treatment or stay at home.

The DOH came up with the new memorandum in response to concerns that the steady increase in the number of flu cases might soon paralyze classes.

School officials shut down the St. Martin de Porres (medicine) and Roque Ruaño (engineering) buildings, gym, and the fourth floor of the carpark building where the College of Accountancy is located.

St. Martin and Roque Ruaño were closed on June 22 and were to open on June 29 and 30, respectively. Accountancy was also scheduled to resume classes at the end of June. The gym was set to open on July 2.

An official of the Accountancy student council told the Varsitarian over the phone that the college’s flu victim was a student. No other details were given.

The Varsitarian learned that another patient was a female athlete.

A memo from athletics director Francis Vicente read: “All trainings will be suspended from June 23 to July 2…(Only) selected basketball players and Salinggawi dancers are allowed to have their trainings.”

Finally, soap

Fear of the flu virus prompted school officials to finally provide soaps in toilets. Until the virus scare, they were a rarity especially in toilets for students.

But still hard to find are napkins despite their necessity in the observance of the so-called “coughing and sneezing etiquette.”

Olalia said the Facilities Management Office had instructed colleges and faculties to provide basic necessities in comfort rooms in their respective buildings to keep the virus at bay.

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Booths were also set up in building lobbies informing Thomasians on how to effectively combat A(H1N1) and provide free access to alcohols and other forms of sanitizer. With reports from Danielle Clara P. Dandan, Prinz P. Magtulis and Cliff Harvey C. Venzon

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