Law School ramps up preparation for swine flu outbreak emergency


An increasing number of Harvard Law School students is being infected with the H1N1, or swine flu virus, according to an email to the HLS community by Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove, leading the school to take extraordinary steps to deal with the situation. The measures come seven months after the first known outbreak of the virus in Massachusetts took place at Harvard Dental School, and three weeks after the university reported running out of regular flu vaccine (it has since acquired more).

The email states that Dean Martha Minow has asked that all measures be taken to ensure that infected students do not miss any material covered in classes. Several options were apparently looked at to bring the classroom to the sick, including the use of digital tools ranging from Skype to WebEx to Elluminate to iSite videos.

In the end, the law school settled on providing recordings of classes to students who are reported by University Health Services to have contracted the illness – but only in those rooms where it has the capability to do so. Recordings will be made available for at least four days after each class has taken place. Infected students with classes in other rooms will receive copies of notes from fellow students who agree to provide them.

Meanwhile, Cosgrove reports that the Law School’s Local Emergency Management Team, or LEMT, is looking into contingency plans if the school falls victim to a wider outbreak. This may result in a revised plan for recording and distributing class materials.

The university currently has a limited quantity of H1N1 vaccine and it is only being distributed on the basis of need. According to the University Health Services website, the university is currently offering the vaccine to pregnant women and pediatric patients. The next group to be innoculated will include those who are under six years old, live with assisted care, household contacts of pregnant women in their third trimester, and medical personnel.

Only following these priority patients will UHS be able to offer the vaccine to university-age students up to 24 years old who are at risk of health problems, followed by persons up to 64 years old under the same circumstances.

UHS has indicated that it will “probably not” receive the 15,000 doses it requested due to slow production of the vaccine.

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