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Northwest University Monitoring Swine Flu Outbreak

Northwest University leaders have been closely monitoring the outbreak of swine flu over the past several days, and they are evaluating the University’s readiness in case of a pandemic.

Although there are only preliminary and limited reports of local cases, Northwest University plans to be ready should public health officials begin to implement mitigation strategies in defense of a swine flu pandemic.

Potential steps are outlined in the University’s Emergency and Crisis Management Plan. Already, the University has:

  • Brought in an extra supply of masks that might be useful for a flu pandemic (or other emergency).
  • Begun evaluating the possibility of cancelling public events. (One of the most productive organizational strategies, should public health officials advise, is to limit crowds. Mexico City, for example, seems to have been doing the right thing in canceling group events like sporting events and worship services, and encouraging telecommuting and other strategies to keep people at home. The University will be prepared to implement strategies of this type if necessary, even during a period of intense year-end activities.)

It does not appear that there is imminent, widespread danger for our region. If you would like to see the latest information on the situation in Seattle and King County, you can visit the web site for health services for Seattle and King County.

Individual Responsibility

While institutions like Northwest University can help prevent the spread of the swine flu, individuals also can take helpful steps. The Center for Disease Control  (CDC) offers the following tips for the prevention of spreading swine flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you become ill with flu-like symptoms, stay home from school or work and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

A Helpful (Happy) Hint for Washing Hands

Washing hands well enough is a key issue, according to Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He suggests that people sing "Happy Birthday" as they wash their hands to make sure they've washed long enough to get rid of germs.

A Flu By Any Other Name

There are still questions about the source of the flu and its proper name. "We have no idea where it came from," said Michael Shaw, associate director for laboratory science for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Everybody's calling it swine flu, but the better term is 'swine-like.' It's like viruses we have seen in pigs, it's not something we know was in pigs."

On Wednesday, U.S. officials started calling the virus 2009 H1N1 after two of its genetic markers.On Thursday, the WHO said it would stop using the name swine flu because it was misleading and triggering the slaughter of pigs in some countries.

Posted on Friday, May 1, 2009