Campuses prepare to take on swine flu
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Friday, July 31, 2009
7/31/09 at 6:43 AM
Documents: View a PDF of the Oklahoma Pandemic Influenza Management Plan.
Read local swine flu information from the Tulsa City-County Health Department.
Find information about preventing swine flu in child-care facilities.
The toll-free swine flu hot line is 1-866-
2 8- 13 . It operates from 8 a.m. to 8
p.m. Monday through Friday.
As students get ready to head back to classrooms and dorms, area university and health officials are preparing for the possible spread of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu.
An overwhelming majority of swine flu cases in the United States have been manageable, and college students are generally a healthy age group. But, because swine flu has disproportionately targeted teenagers and young adults, schools are likely to experience outbreaks, officials said.
"We're just trying to cover the bases as best we can," said Steve Rogers, director of University Health Services at Oklahoma State University.
OSU has had a pandemic plan in place for four years. The campus health center has a stockpile of supplies, and health care workers are prepared to inundate students and employees with e-mails, posters, speeches and other communication about how to avoid and respond to swine flu, he said.
Two OSU students came down with swine flu in the spring, prompting the university to announce its graduation ceremony would not include a celebratory handshake from university president Burns Hargis. OSU reversed that policy at the last minute, and handshakes were included in commencement.
To prepare for the fall, universities are working closely with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the state and county health departments. In the unlikely event that canceling classes or closing a campus would be necessary, that decision would be made with the consultation of the state health department, said state epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.
Universities and colleges should work with local institutions and craft an acceptable response, she said. There isn't a one-size-fits-all plan.
The University of Tulsa has had a pandemic plan for several years, spokesman David Hamby said. TU also is monitoring news from health organizations and are talking to other universities about their plans.
OSU deals with the seasonal flu every fall, as well, Rogers said, and two years ago, about 1,500 students were sick in an eight-month period.
Although swine flu cases have been relatively mild so far, the virus has recently shown the potential to create substantial problems.
Several summer camps had to cancel their programs this year after large numbers of students came down with the swine flu. Earlier this month, more than 60 cadets at the Air Force Academy tested positive for the disease less than a week after arriving.
Earlier this year, nearly 44,000 cases of swine flu were reported through the United States, resulting in slightly more than 300 deaths. Oklahoma has had 237 confirmed cases and one death reported, according to state Health Department data.
The World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic in June.
The CDC recommends that people in a campus environment who begin to experience swine flu symptoms isolate themselves for seven days.
Bradley said the department of health is encouraging colleges to be understanding about missed exams or labs while a student is sick, and is asking professors to monitor their students whenever possible.
"The most important thing is we want to keep those who are sick away from those who are well," she said.
Although scientists are working on a vaccine, it won't be available until October, and it will likely be restricted to those who are particularlyvulnerable, such as pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions, Bradley said. The CDC did add those 24 and younger as a target group this week.
Bradley said all people should practice good hygiene and wash their hands regularly to avoid the flu. Regular exercise, plenty of sleep and a good diet also aid in prevention.
"We can't neglect that, because there's a great deal of importance in those routine practices," she said.
Shannon Muchmore 581-8378