Zika Virus Update

(February 11, 2016)

We appreciate that NEC is a global community and that many of its members live, travel and perform all over the world.  Please take a few moments to read the following health advisory on the Zika Virus, a topic that has recently been extensively covered in the news. 

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that was recently declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Information (WHO). While this is a rare virus in the United States with only one confirmed case in Boston, you may have questions about how this virus could affect you.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the WHO are rapidly developing information and here is what we currently know.

Facts about Zika Virus:

  • Zika virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, although evidence is beginning to show that it may also be sexually transmitted. 
  • The species of mosquito carrying Zika virus does not live in New England. Countries considered in the affected area are listed on the CDC’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html
  • Zika has little or no symptoms – only about 1 in 5 people infected with it will develop symptoms such as rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes. The vast majority of infected people will experience no symptoms and will require no medical attention.
  • The focus of concern is on pregnant women who are in - or may travel to - affected areas, and women who may become pregnant during - or shortly after - travel to affected areas.
  • Though it has not been clinically proven, the Zika virus may potentially cause microcephaly in unborn babies. Microcephaly is a rare condition in which an infant’s head is smaller than expected, and the brain does not develop properly. While reports of microcephaly have increased as Zika spreads, only a handful of cases have been strongly linked to Zika virus. 
  • There is currently no vaccine available for Zika virus.

What to do if you are planning to travel to a region affected by Zika Virus 

The CDC, along with state and local health authorities, has issued advice for people considering travel to affected areas:

  • Pregnant women should consider avoiding travel to affected areas. If travel is necessary, women should speak with their health care providers about how to avoid mosquito bites. 
  • Women who could become pregnant while traveling to affected areas may want to talk to their health care providers about contraception. 
  • All others are advised to travel with protective clothing and mosquito repellent.

Visit the CDC Website for the most up-to- date information about the Zika Virus by clicking on http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html


Update on Influenza/Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) activity

(January 16, 2015)

Influenza (what is referred to as the flu) is now widespread across 46 states in the US, including Massachusetts.  We have had one confirmed case of influenza at NEC and expect that there will be an increase in flu activity as the season continues.  

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

This year’s most common flu strain (Influenza A) is not a perfect match with the vaccine.  The vaccine does, however, protect from other strains of flu (influenza B) that circulate during flu season.  Symptoms may be milder and not as easily recognized as flu, but are potentially just as contagious.  We encourage NEC students and other members of the NEC community to get a seasonal influenza vaccine (flu shot) since vaccination remains the single best way to prevent the flu.   

Students may call the NEC Health and Counseling Service at 617-585-1284 to make an appointment for a flu shot or if they suspect that they have the flu. 

How do I know if it’s influenza /ILI?

The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How Flu Spreads:

  • Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing.
  • They usually spread from person to person, though sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. 
  • Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. 

Good Health Habits to Prevent the Spread of Flu:

  • Clean your hands - Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.  You may also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick - When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick - If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Cover Your Cough - Stop the Spread of Germs that makes you and others sick.

What should I do if I get the flu?

  • If you are feeling sick, stay home.  You should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away without the use of fever reducing medicines. 
  • Generally, the flu lasts 3 to 7 days, but people may feel tired for weeks.   Drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest.  
  • Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Nuprin® or Advil®) can be used to help relieve a fever.  Be sure to follow package directions for the age of the person taking the medicine.  
  • Do not give aspirin to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness.  
  • Decongestants may help relieve a stuffy nose or sinus pressure in adults and older children.  
  • Talk to your health care provider if symptoms seem severe or ongoing. 
  • For more information on the flu or how to care for yourself or someone with the flu, on http://www.bphc.org/whatwedo/infectious-diseases/influenza/Pages/Influenza.aspx

When should I contact my health care provider?

  • Get emergency medical care if you or someone you know has flu and any of the signs below: 
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain 
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips 
  • Vomiting and unable to keep liquids down 
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dizziness when standing, less urine, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry 
  • Seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions (shakes) 
  • Is less responsive than normal or becomes confused 
  • Signs of flu that improve but then return with fever and worse cough 
  • Fever with a rash 
  • Any other signs that are especially worrisome or concerning

Additional Flu Resources:



The Information included in this memo was adapted from materials found on the Centers for Disease Control and Boston Public Health Commission websites.