CU-Boulder Ramps Up To Handle Pandemic, Common Flu Outbreak

first_imgShare Share via TwitterShare via FacebookShare via LinkedInShare via E-mail Published: Oct. 22, 2006 Departments across the University of Colorado at Boulder have been gearing up since last spring for the possibility of a pandemic flu outbreak in the event the H5N1, or avian influenza virus, makes its way to the United States and begins spreading from person-to-person. Sylvia Dane, emergency management coordinator for the Boulder campus, drafted the CU-Boulder Pandemic Response Plan with the help of staff, faculty and students over the summer, outlining how CU-Boulder would handle an avian or pandemic flu outbreak. The plan was finalized in June and will be revised as conditions warrant. “Should an avian flu outbreak occur, the university will coordinate very closely with Boulder County Public Health in responding to the needs of the campus. Individual departments will implement their plans, and overall campus response will be coordinated by the campus policy group,” said Dane. The policy group consists of the chancellor and vice chancellors, their key staff members, the campus police chief and legal counsel. Paul Tabolt, vice chancellor for administration, initiated campus planning for a pandemic during the spring semester in response to rising international concern. The avian flu virus is spread easily among birds but does not readily infect humans. Although there are rare instances where humans have contracted avian flu, some medical experts are concerned that the H5N1 strain of avian flu could mutate and spread more easily among people. The seasonal flu that officials predict will be most prevalent this year is different from avian flu, Dane said. The Boulder campus Pandemic Response Plan and the Pandemic Communications Plan have resulted in a slate of communication methods for educating students, faculty and staff. In addition to other communication efforts, a Web site has been created to increase understanding of pandemic flu and offer ways to prevent and prepare for flu. Three primary themes of the site are “understand, prevent and prepare.” For more information on the site go to: www.colorado.edu/safety/pandemicflu/index.html. Wallet cards with the web link have been created to distribute on campus in addition to a slide show, stickers and brochures. Travel precautions also are particularly important for faculty, some of whom travel frequently in the course of their work. Students and staff are encouraged to be aware of conditions abroad before they take a trip. Tips for safe travel are posted at: www.colorado.edu/safety/pandemicflu/prevent/. Since the spread of avian or pandemic flu would create widespread societal disruption, campus departments are working on business continuity plans to maintain operations, Dane said. “We estimate that, were a pandemic-level flu to occur, absenteeism among students, faculty and staff could reach up to 40 percent,” Dane said. “Given the possibility of high levels of absenteeism, departments need to address how they would continue to provide basic services.” Pandemic flu scenarios for the campus include the possible departure of most of CU-Boulder’s on-site residential student population. However, if certain geographic areas are quarantined, it’s possible that underclassmen who live in CU-Boulder’s 22 residence halls would not be able to leave campus. “In addition to planning for the likelihood that many students would leave campus during a pandemic, we also need to prepare for the likelihood that county and state authorities will restrict travel to control the spread of an avian or other flu,” Dane said. “That means we need to plan for disruptions and for a campus with some students in residence halls but far fewer faculty and staff on site.” In the meantime, efforts to bolster the annual preparation for common flu have been underway for several months. The Wardenburg Health Center, in conjunction with the pandemic planning committee, has developed a series of messages to prepare students, faculty and staff for the common, or seasonal, flu, focusing on flu prevention practices to reduce the impacts of flu on class attendance, residence hall illness and functioning of campus workplaces. About 90 dispensers of hand sanitizer have been installed throughout campus since the beginning of October. Seventeen campus buildings have been equipped with two or three dispensers each installed in ground-floor bathrooms close to main entrances in buildings, including Hellems Arts and Sciences, Imig Music, Duane Physics, Muenzinger Psychology, the Engineering Center, Cristol Chemistry and Norlin Library, among others. Flu kits also have been distributed to new students since the beginning of the school year, and buildings all over campus will display flyers with flu prevention messages, encouraging students, faculty and staff to make their classrooms, laboratories, and offices “No Flu Zones” to help prevent the spread of flu. The campaign will run for eight weeks. For more information on CU-Boulder’s pandemic and common flu plans see: www.colorado.edu/safety/pandemicflu/prepare/, www.colorado.edu/healthcenter/, www.colorado.edu/healthcenter/downloads/avianflu.pdf. To request a copy of the CU-Boulder Pandemic Response Plan, send an e-mail message to [email protected]last_img read more