05/04/09 — Mount Olive College students back from Mexico, and fine

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Mount Olive College students back from Mexico, and fine

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on May 4, 2009 1:46 PM

The group of Mount Olive College business students who traveled to Mexico during the outbreak of swine flu made it back to Raleigh a little later than scheduled Saturday night after stopping for a quick medical exam, but arrived home safely and show no signs of illness.

The five students and their professor came back to the United States after completing an internship and study abroad program in the Mexican state of Guanajuanto, but missed their connecting flight because of the time it took to undergo the individual medical screening.

Every person getting on the plane to the United States was examined, said Dr. David Hill, professor at the Tillman School of Business.

"We were checked by a doctor before we left," Hill said.

Classes are over for Mount Olive College, and the students who went on the trip have already taken their final exams. None of the group members were scheduled to graduate this year, he said.

When they arrived late Saturday night at the Raleigh-Durham Airport, MOC President Dr. J. William Byrd was there to greet them, along with Dr. Kenneth Stokes, dean of the Tillman School of Business.

"Their well-being and safety is our No. 1 concern," Byrd said.

Felix Reimundo of Miami, Mishael Bautista of Mount Olive, Camila Kurebayashi of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Michael Ratley of Fayetteville and Ivette Clemente-Andoney from RTP went on the trip.

The group had travel insurance and could have been pulled out by a medevac unit if they had been in any danger, and were in close contact with the college and their families, Byrd said.

The students took Tamiflu as a preventative measure, were not located near any of the confirmed cases of swine flu and had a physician on hand if needed.

The experience will probably not impact future MOC policy decisions about students' international travel, Byrd said.

"I don't think so. We will always be concerned, No. 1, about their safety and their learning experience, and we will continue to do that," he said.

The study abroad trip was the inaugural event of what organizers hope to develop into an ongoing relationship between Mount Olive College and Mexico, particularly Centro Fox, a library and media center developed by former Mexican President Fox.

The former president could even be coming to the college at some point in the future, as could some of the students the MOC students met in Mexico, and the organizers plan on making a return trip to Mexico in the fall, Hill said.

"He (former Mexican President Fox) said that basically, you guys are friends, you are welcome to come back anytime," he said.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue announced Sunday the first confirmed case of swine flu in the state. An Onslow County man who had recently visited Texas has the disease and has been ordered into isolation for seven days. He was not identified by authorities.

So far, the state Department of Health and Human Services has handled 413 submitted samples from people suspected of having the disease, with 320 coming back negative. Of those, 65 are still outstanding, officials said.