The impact of the swine flu outbreak continues to grow on American colleges campuses -- even as the confirmed cases appear small in number and relatively mild.
On Thursday, Texas Wesleyan University, Western Oregon University, and the Harvard Dental School announced plans to close temporarily -- although no one at Texas Wesleyan is believed to have swine flu. The university has canceled all classes and campus events through May 5, effectively ending the semester early. A spokesman noted that school districts that educate the children of many employees and students had shut down, so the institution was worried about the ability of these parents to juggle responsibilities. Currently, the university plans to have students consult with faculty members on assignments, and to hold final exams on schedule.
Western Oregon announced that it is closing through Monday because of a likely diagnosis of a student with swine flu. Residence halls are remaining open, but other major facilities -- including the library -- will be shut.
At Harvard University, a dental student's possible case of swine flu has led the dental school to close all clinics and to call off classes today. Classes are also being canceled at the the university's medical school and public health school, which share a campus with the dental school. Harvard's medical campuses are located away from the university's main campus, in Cambridge.
Other campuses with confirmed cases are keeping classes on regular schedules. The University of Delaware -- with a mix of 10 probable and confirmed cases -- is keeping classes going but calling off a number of athletic events and large gatherings.
Amherst College announced that two students have probably cases of swine flu and four other recent cases of flu may have been swine flu. The college is continuing normal operations, but has asked that all parties planned for this weekend be canceled. Fairfield University has two probable cases of students with swine flu, but the college is operating its regular programs.
The statements from the various colleges and universities reporting swine flu diagnoses generally noted that the cases were not life-threatening and that students affected were recovering or had recovered already.
An online map prepared by the International Association of Emergency Managers-Universities and Colleges Committee and the University of Oregon lists known and suspected cases of swine flu on campuses. The San Diego Community College district has been working with federal health officials -- prior to the swine flu outbreak -- about communications plans for campuses dealing with a pandemic, and the district posted online drafts of some of the materials that effort has produced.
With health officials suggesting that large gatherings or social events could lead to the spread of swine flu, graduation ceremonies are being examined at some campuses.
Northeastern University, which holds graduation ceremonies today, is asking graduates and deans not to shake hands as degrees are awarded.
Slippery Rock University will hold a graduation ceremony for 22 education majors this weekend that will be separate from the main commencement activities because these students just returned from student teaching assignments in Mexico City, The Morning Call reported. The newspaper said that more than 300 parents of other graduating students called to complain about their children and families being close to the students just back from Mexico.