Preparations in place for the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic

Josh Edge

Although the potential H1N1 pandemic, or Swine Flu, is still a distinct possibility, most preparations for the outbreak have gone nearly as far as they can go for the time being.

As of yet, there has not been as devastating widespread outbreak that had originally been anticipated which would cause emergency plans to become implemented not only across UAA, but across the state.

“We are following guidance from the state health department,” said UPD Lt. Ron Swartz, UAA’s Emergency Manager. “[The University] might move classes online and cancel large events in the case of a large outbreak.”

The primary University plan for the time being is to make sure that staff has been cross-trained and the departments are determining policies and procedures that will allow them to operate if 40 to 50 percent of the staff is out sick in order to keep basic University operations functioning, according to Swartz.

This isn’t to say that there have not been reported cases of H1N1 around Anchorage. But in the event that someone does contract the virus, officials are highly recommending that they notify their supervisor or professor and remain at home for the duration of the sickness.

If someone comes down with a confirmed case of H1N1they are to “remain at home for at least 24 hours after the fever ends,” Bette Fenn, director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, said.

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Fenn also recommends that the fever remain unmedicated, because if the fever is medicated, it may falsely seem as if it has subsided, making the 24-hour wait time incorrect.

The SHCC is also promoting the “Cover and Cough” campaign, which promotes some simple ways to help prevent the spread of the flu.

So far, there were no confirmed cases of H1N1 on campus during the spring semester of 2009, but it is possible that there may have been some cases that were overlooked due to its overlap with the seasonal flu season.

“In the spring we weren’t checking for H1N1, although we probably did see some cases,” Fenn said.

But, there were a number of cases that were handled well after the end of the traditional season for the seasonal flu that were expected to be a form of H1N1 and were sent to the state office of epidemiology.

Currently, the Student Health and Counseling Center is offering seasonal flu shots in an attempt to make the seasonal flu shot definitive and separate from the upcoming opportunity to receive vaccine against H1N1.

But, testing is still being done and the vaccine is still being developed in order to determine if the H1N1 vaccine will be a single shot, or a series of two; as well as determining if the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu shot can be taken concurrently according to Fenn.

The SHCC is expecting the vaccine to be delivered sometime in mid-October. The vaccine will be free because it is a federal-government provided vaccine that is meant to combat a widespread pandemic.

Fenn acknowledges that the process of getting the two different shots for seemingly similar viruses can be confusing, but she noted that it’s crucial that people get both sets of shots.

However, it is important to note that the seasonal flu is still more deadly than the novel H1N1 virus.

“What is different about novel H1N1 is that a lot of people don’t have a natural immunity,” Fenn said.

Those who stand to be at the highest amount of risk are those who range in age from four to 25, making prevention of the virus very important from those who are of college age down to toddlers.

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