Flu fears prompt two graduations at Pa. university

Friday, May 1, 2009

PITTSBURGH -- Slippery Rock University will hold a separate graduation for students who recently returned from Mexico because school officials fear that they could have been exposed to the swine flu.

So far, the 22 students are in good health, but Saturday's commencement ceremonies fall in the middle of an incubation period during which the students have been advised to limit contact with others, the university said.

"To allow them to be exposed to 3,000 to 5,000 people would be an error on our part," spokesman Karl Schwab said Thursday.

The separate graduation ceremony will be private to limit contact. To recognize the students' sacrifice of not graduating with the rest of their class, their ceremony will be videotaped and played at an afternoon ceremony. A large morning ceremony will also take place.

Schwab was not sure how many of the students would attend the separate ceremony. At least two would not; one had not planned to participate in graduation anyway.

The students, all education majors, were in Mexico City for a month to complete their student-teacher requirements. The flu's spread prompted schools to close there and Slippery Rock arranged for the students to return Tuesday, two days earlier than had been planned, Schwab said.

School officials consulted with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in making their decision to hold a separate graduation.

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