U cancels learning abroad programs in Mexico

Nineteen students flew home Tuesday night; May term and summer session programs canceled.

The University of Minnesota canceled all study abroad programs in Mexico Tuesday in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all nonessential travel to Mexico be avoided. More than 100 cases of influenza in Mexico are believed to be strains of the swine influenza virus. According to the World Health Organization, Mexico reported 26 confirmed cases of the infection, seven of which were fatal. Nineteen students in an architecture learning abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico, were expected to be flown home late Tuesday night, University spokesman Daniel Wolter said Tuesday afternoon. The other two University undergraduate students currently studying in Mexico are in programs where travel is not arranged through the University, he said, but at least one of the studentsâÄô programs has been closed on MexicoâÄôs end. The Education Abroad Suspension Committee planned to e-mail the 52 students planning to depart for May term and summer programs in Mexico Tuesday night notifying them of the decision. A separate program through the School of Public Health had planned to send about 20 students to study in Mexico. In a statement, the Learning Abroad Center urged students with independent plans to travel to Mexico to defer or cancel such trips until the University emergency preparedness teams, and national health officials, lift or change the current travel recommendations. Aaron Reed, a communications junior who had planned to take a three-week language course over May term, learned of the UniversityâÄôs decision from the Daily Tuesday afternoon, before the e-mail went out. When he first learned of the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico, âÄúit was a bit of fear in the back of my mind,âÄù he said, but it became more of a concern when his father, a microbiologist, called worried. âÄúI figured the U wouldnâÄôt send me if it was like a dangerous situation,âÄù he said. âÄúI guess IâÄôm sort of relieved that I donâÄôt have to think about it âÄî IâÄôm not going to be in a place for three weeks where I think IâÄôm going to catch a deadly illness.âÄù Reed said heâÄôll probably pick up the course to fill his language requirement in the fall instead. An update from the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed Tuesday there are still no cases of the disease in the state, after having tested 30 people. Officials recommend basic hygiene for people, such as hand washing and covering coughs, to keep disease from spreading. State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said Monday anyone who had traveled to Mexico within the last week and was feeling ill should seek medical attention. Some of the confirmed cases in New York have been traced to students who traveled to Mexico for spring break trips. The swine influenza, which some health officials are referring to as âÄúNorth American influenza,âÄù is currently being transmitted person-to person and there is no risk of contracting the disease from eating pork products. -Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter