You are here

Influenza - Letter to the Community

June 2007

Dear Members of the Marlboro College Community:

Marlboro College created a task force comprising many departments on campus to develop an emergency response plan focusing on the possibility of an influenza pandemic. We are working to ensure an efficient response to a variety of situations that may arise, and to provide ongoing education about avian influenza.

As you know, avian influenza (subtype H5N1, also known as “bird flu”) is a hot topic in the media these days. Despite the fact that millions of birds, domestic and wild, have been culled, the infection has been persistent in the bird population and continues to spread along the flight paths of migratory birds. Most of the laboratory confirmed cases in humans have resulted from direct contact with infected birds with only a few cases occurring from human-to-human contact.

Scientists, public health authorities, and government officials are expressing concern that a pandemic could be sparked by the virus if it mutates in a way that allows for sustainable transmission from person to person. The World Health Organization and U.S. health authorities are making preparations in the event that a pandemic occurs and urge all communities to do so. We are following this recommendation and are making plans to prepare our campus communities as well.

We are also following the latest developments by monitoring the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites, following the guidelines of the American College Health Association, maintaining an open line of communication with our local health department, town officials and hospitals, as well as comparing our plans to those of other colleges and universities.

In our decision making process, the Marlboro College Emergency Task Force is examining several scenarios that would prompt different actions. In each of these options the College may not be the sole decision-maker but would be informed or required to take action by the CDC, Vermont Department of Health or other federal or state agencies. However, the College will most likely need to make a decision before one is mandated.

In one scenario, as soon as there is sustained person-to-person transmission in our region or in the US, the College would close with plans to make sure students and visiting faculty without local homes are traveling to a safe place. The College would continue to pay personnel and maintain plans to reopen. Distance learning may be offered to give undergraduate students continuity in their studies.

In another scenario, travel would be restricted and the College will need to have plans for where students can safely go and how they might be housed and cared for. Three key threshold questions are: How fast might the virus be transmitted? How much time will there be to decide whether students and visitors could travel safely? Should the College close?

Marlboro College is learning from other colleges in our region, and will be presenting our draft of a pandemic plan by July 30.

We will also be educating the community on flu prevention.

Finally, we realize that you may have many questions about avian influenza. To help answer some of those questions, we have prepared a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

You can also learn more about avian influenza and the pandemic threat at the following websites:

If necessary, important updates and announcements will be distributed via email from the President and the subject line will read “AVIAN FLU UPDATE.” All updates will also be posted to the College website and the town crier.

Rest assured that we are taking active measures to be prepared in case the avian flu affects our campus communities. Thank you for your attention.


President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell
Chair of the Emergency Task Force

AnnMarie Gorham, MSN, APRN
Director of Health Services Co-Chair of the Emergency Task Force

Tim Segar, Faculty Member
Co-Chair of the Emergency Task Force