School health officials plan for worst-case scenario for flu
May 6, 2009 8:16 PM
As many people watch the phase five virus known as Swine Flu grow globally, some may find themselves anxious. At SF State, health officials are prepared to tackle the virus if it should surface on campus.
The World Health Organization says the phase five alert means the virus, whose medical scientific name is H1N1, sustained human-to-human spread in at least two countries.
There are confirmed human cases of swine flu in 22 countries, according to WHO. Mexico reported 29 deaths and the U.S. reported two deaths so far, they stated.
If someone reported ill at SF State, Dr. Alastair Smith, director of the Student Health Services, would be in charge of overseeing the problem, according to Gayle Orr-Smith, emergency preparedness coordinator for the University Police Department.
"The EOC - Emergency Operation Center - would be activated if it was proven to be one," said Orr-Smith of an outbreak of the virus. "That's where the emergency managers on campus, as well as the president's cabinet, meet together and map out the strategy."
The team would then discuss full or partial shutdown of classes, evacuation of buildings and providing sanitation as readily as possible, Orr-Smith said.
SHS is not taking any chances, according to Saurabh Kumar, who works at the SHS as a front desk assistant.
"After this flu scare, we've been taking extra precautions," said the 26-year-old electrical engineering grad student.
"We've been spreading awareness, providing masks and sanitizers. If you have symptoms, we will give you a slip with information and a mask and take you straight to the doctor."
At SF State, a few people have gotten tested for flu symptoms and one person had their specimen sent to California's public health laboratory, but there have been no reports of the virus, according to Smith.
On other CSU campuses, one CSU Long Beach student received a "probable positive" test result and a San Diego State University student is believed to have swine flu and is currently receiving treatment, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed wrote in a press release.
Though the swine flu has not reached pandemic level, Smith said it's very probable that it will.
"There are two things to look for," Smith said. "One, how many people get it and two, how severe is the disease. But so far, in this country, it doesn't seem to be severe."
Smith stressed the importance of hand washing and social distancing, saying that they are the most effective ways in slowing down the spread of the virus.
"Most transmissions take place with hand exchange," he said. "And if someone is coughing, you want to be at least six feet away from them."
Karla Panameno, a 19-year-old biology student, isn't risking getting sick as she walks around campus with her own facemask.
"We feel we need to protect ourselves because we just found out that there were cases in Pittsburgh and Antioch," said Panameno of her and her friend.
"We wanted to be on the safe side. We commute via BART and Muni and we're just taking extra precautions."
According to Smith, SHS tests for swine flu by checking for classic flu symptoms such as a fever over 100 degrees, coughing and sore throats as well as contact from Mexico, where it is likely the virus originated.
The CSU has been in touch with 12 SF State students studying abroad in Mexico and they are safe and well, according to SF State President Robert A. Corrigan's e-mail to students, faculty and staff of the flu.
Ren Balanos, a 20-year-old hospitality management student, returned Wednesday from her year abroad in Queretaro, Mexico along with two other SF State students.
"Most of the Mexicans were calm," she said of how the situation was handled abroad. "Though schools were shut down nationwide, people in Mexico would keep to themselves and were not nervous."
Balanos' reason for returning home did not involve swine flu. Since all schools shut down and finals were approaching, students were given the option to wait a week for the schools to reopen or return home and send their finals via e-mail, said Balanos.
For news updates on the flu go to the Web site of the local department of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.sfcdcp.org/swineflu.html or visit SF State's Student Health Center Web site at http://www.sfsu.edu/~shs/.
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