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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Drill to test readiness for flu pandemic

    When flu pandemics break out, they can cause serious illness, economic instability, and even death among thousands of people worldwide.

    More than 400 UA students from various colleges will participate in a pandemic flu exercise today at the Arizona Health Sciences Center in order to be more prepared if such a outbreak were to occur.

    Students from the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Law and the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will discuss various disaster scenarios and also learn how to handle the outcomes of a flu pandemic hitting Tucson.

    “”We’re in the prime flu season so it’s a timely topic,”” said Dr. Lynne Tomasa from the UA Office of Medical Student Education. “”It’s also something that all of us need to be aware of … and how we’re going to respond.””

    A pandemic is defined as a global disease outbreak, according to This occurs when a new type of flu virus surfaces for which people have little to no immunity against. It spreads quickly from person to person and can affect the entire world in a very short time.

    Scott Willard, a second year medical student and president of the inter-professional student alliance for health care, said the pandemic flu exercise would benefit the students by giving them the knowledge of how to work together as a health care team.

    “”They’ve talked to us about why things go wrong in hospitals and a large portion of it is communication between professions,”” Willard said.

    The morning will start with keynote speaker Richard Carmona, the 17th surgeon general of the United States. He will discuss the pandemic flu and emergency preparedness. Next the students will break into groups to discuss what would happen in the case of a flu pandemic hitting Tucson.

    “”The inter-professional activities will help with communication between the different health professions,”” third year pharmacy student Whitney Shields said. “”It gives us more knowledge in preventing or controlling the situation.””

    Hal Strich, associate director of the MD-MPH Dual Degree Program at the UA College of Medicine and one of the event organizers, said there would be several learning objectives taught to students who participate in the event.

    They’ll learn about the consequences of limited resources, the safety of healthcare workers, the role of the private sector, healthcare for non-citizens and also the role of media in informing the public about an outbreak, Strich said.

    “”It will help raise awareness of the threats and consequences of the disease pandemic and give them the skills to work with health professionals to reduce those threats,”” Strich said.

    No one knows when the next pandemic will be, but the pandemic in 1918 killed nearly 50 million people worldwide, Strich added.

    “”We’ve had two or three every century, and we’re overdue,”” he said.

    UMC also has a planning group in case a disaster of this magnitude was to occur, Tomasa said.

    “”It is a concern,”” said Tomasa, “”There are some that feel we just need to be ready.””

    Willard said there would be groups introduced during the activity that students could join so that they will be included on emergency lists.

    “”(These lists) say ‘I am ready and willing to go out there in case of a pandemic … and to know how to handle these emergency situations,'”” he said.

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