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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Flu threat spurs action

    From the left, Executive Vice President and Provost Meredith Hay and Brian Seastone, Commander/Mngr. of Emergency Preparedness, listen with other UA officials to discussion of about the action the university if Swine Flu infections were discovered in Tucson.
    From the left, Executive Vice President and Provost Meredith Hay and Brian Seastone, Commander/Mngr. of Emergency Preparedness, listen with other UA officials to discussion of about the action the university if Swine Flu infections were discovered in Tucson.

    The University of Arizona has issued a recommendation against faculty, staff or students engaging in non-essential travel to Mexico until further notice, in response to the international outbreak of “”swine influenza.””

    Yesterday, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level from a phase three to phase four, on its six-level threat scale in response to the increase in outbreaks of the swine flu.

    According to the World Health Organization, at least 75 cases have been confirmed worldwide as of Monday night, including 40 cases in the United States and 26 in Mexico. In addition, as many as 149 deaths are thought to be caused by the virus in Mexico and hundreds more cases are suspected.

    The UA Campus Emergency Response team (CERT), is working closely with the Pima County Health Department, to help the university take the necessary precautions to prevent a possible outbreak of the flu.

    “”For some time now, CERT has developed a UA Pandemic Response Activities Program with multiple levels depending on the severity and immediacy of the threat,”” said UA President Robert N. Shelton in an email. “”In short, we are well-prepared.””

    “”So far, there have been no cases of the flu in Arizona,”” said Paul Allvin, UA associate vice president for the office communications, and member of CERT. “”We have a plan of how the university should respond to this pandemic, and this is the first time we’ve had to look at how to act to such a spreading. We are on a level of monitoring what’s happening, and we made the decision to strongly recommend that people avoid traveling to Mexico.””

    The UA has not had to take these precautions in response to a pandemic since May 2003, when they enacted an interim travel policy to areas affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, said Allvin.

    “”The thing about our university is that students and faculty travel all the time, whether for studying, work or travel abroad. Our campus is active with people coming and going from other places of the world. This is an issue for the UA, especially because we are next door to a country that has been affected,”” said Allvin.

    Although there have been no confirmed or suspected cases in Arizona, students, faculty and staff are still urged to follow precautions as if it were a typical flu.

    “”Seasonal flu still is active in Arizona, public health officials strongly advise that individuals practice flu prevention measures to decrease their chance of getting ill,”” said Harry McDermott, executive director for Campus Health and Wellness.

    According to McDermott, if there were to be an outbreak of the swine flu on campus, in an extreme worst-case scenario, the option of suspending classes and non-essential university operations would have to be considered. However, the decision would be made by UA administrators with guidance from public health and other experts, he said.

    “”We’ve never experienced anything of this magnitude,”” said Patti Woodlock, public information officer for Pima County Health Department. “”Luckily, we’ve had no critical calls of suspected outbreaks in Tucson. However, if you have had symptoms that include body ache, fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, for a week or so, call a physician before you actually go in. Doing a screening over the telephone reduces the chance for exposure to occur. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, stay at home.””

    According to Woodlock, the Pima County Health Department is following guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

    “”There’s a lot we have to learn,”” said Allvin. “”Until we know more about the nature of the flu, all we can do is have an abundance of caution.””

    Precautions to follow:

    ? Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; throw the tissue in the trash after you use it – or cough or sneeze into your sleeve or upper arm. This will help toÿ keep germs off your hands, where they can be spread easier.

    ÿ ? Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.

    ? Try to avoid close contact (within six feet) with sick people.

    ? If you get sick, public health experts recommend that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

    ? Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

    – recommended by Harry McDermott, executive director for campus health and wellness

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