Vaipouli College closed – H1N1 outbreak suspected

By Lance Polu

APIA: Thursday 9 July 2009 – The Ministry of Health has closed Vaipouli College on Savaii Island for the remainder of this week after health staff identified a cluster of students from the school presenting with symptoms of influenza at the neighboring Safotu District Hospital the day before.  Infection with H1N1 is highly suspected.  The school hosted visitors from both Australia and New Zealand within a week of the outbreak of influenza like illness in students.

A total of 38 students of Vaipouli College have now been quarantined within the hostel grounds.  Twenty-six have mild symptoms whilst twelve have moderate symptoms.  All have been fully assessed by a team of doctors and nurses from the National Health Service and the Ministry of Health.  All 38 are being visited twice daily by health staff and are reported to be making good recovery.  They were issued TamiFlu yesterday and will be out of quarantine by Saturday afternoon.

Confirmation of infection with the H1N1 virus will not be received for another week at least whilst the sample specimens taken from students are shipped to the ESR laboratory in Wellington New Zealand for testing.

Fifteen other people consisting of staff and helpers have also been quarantined along with the affected students.

The school is free to reopen on Monday, however the Ministry of Health strongly advises parents to ensure that any student found to suffer symptoms of the flu should be kept at home until they are fully well.  Precautions should be taken to prevent transmission of the flu at home.  These precautions include keeping a distance of at least one metre from the person with flu like illness, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and washing hands frequently and especially before eating.