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Important Health Information

Mon. Oct. 20, 2014

Dear Campus Community,

We wanted to provide some important information regarding the recent developments in Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).  As you probably know, EVD has infected two American healthcare workers who cared for a patient in Texas.  This patient subsequently died from the disease, and the two healthcare workers are continuing to be carefully monitored. While the CDC is unclear as to the actual mode of transmission to these workers, it is believed that the transmission occurred after prolonged, unprotected contact with the sick patient’s bodily fluids.

What are important facts to remember about EVD?

EVD is not easily transmitted. It is not spread by casual contact. It is not airborne. Only people actively sick with the virus can spread it to others if their infected bodily fluids come in direct contact with another person’s unprotected skin, eyes, nose, or mouth.  

People who travel to high-risk areas are only considered at risk of contracting the virus if they are in the presence of a person sick with the virus and that proximity is close—approximately 3-6 feet.

A list of high-risk areas of West Africa is available at:

People who are returning from travel to these high-risk areas should be aware of the symptoms of EVD. These include fever, muscle aches, unexplained bruising or bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.    

It is important to note that the college has no knowledge of any community member who has traveled to the listed high risk areas within the past 21 days. Also, there is no high risk area currently identified within the United States.

If, however, you have been to a country identified as having an Ebola outbreak, and have had exposure to a sick person, we ask that you contact the student health service at 610-328-8058 to talk with one of our medical staff. We also ask that if a student with such potential exposure were to become ill, that they call the health services before coming to the center so that we may be prepared to help that student while decreasing the possibility of others becoming exposed in the waiting area. This same advice holds true for faculty and staff who should contact their doctor or hospital before seeking care, to ensure the safety of all. 

Swarthmore’s Student Health Service is following all precautions and recommendations provided by the CDC, the American College Health Association, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The health service has also been in close contact with the Crozer Keystone Health System’s emergency departments and the Delaware County Emergency Response Network as well as the PA Department of Health in Media.

Our surveillance and response protocols have been developed in consultation with these groups, as well as with the national resources listed in the links below:
1.        CDC:
2.        CDC to colleges and universities:  
3.        Pennsylvania Department of Health:

What we can do now, as a community, about other seasonal health issues

While the chances of EVD affecting large parts of the country are unlikely, we do know that the seasonal influenza virus does and will affect many in this country in the coming months.  To help our community keep as healthy as possible, we urge every member to get a seasonal flu vaccine. 

The health center is giving the flu vaccine throughout this semester and will be holding a special walk-by clinic for all students at the dining hall this week and next on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., and on next Wed. and Thurs. afternoon, Oct. 29th and 30th, also from 4 – 6 p.m.

In addition, the health center reminds all students to wash their hands frequently during cold and flu season.  As simple as it is, hand-washing is the single-most important step a community can take to decrease the spread of communicable disease. Soap and water are best, but hand sanitizer is also helpful when soap and water are not available. The College’s Environmental Services will be installing more hand sanitizing stations in classroom buildings in the hopes of prompting all community members to clean their hands often. 

Finally, the Student Health Service is available to answer any questions you might have regarding the information contained in this notice. Please contact the health services at 610-328-8058 from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Friday to speak with a member of our staff.  

Together, our community can make the commitment to become a healthy campus where we look out for one another, just as we do ourselves. 

Best wishes for a healthy semester,

Beth Kotarski, Director, Student Health Services
The Staff of the Student Health Services
Liz Braun, Dean of Students