How UMD Stayed Prepared For the Flu Epidemic

by AMBER EBANKS

In response to the Avian Flu Virus, officials at the University of Maryland implemented several resources on campus for students. The virus has the potential to spread very quickly and could “significantly interrupt normal university functions,” according to a pamphlet published by the university in February.

In case of a flu epidemic, the university planned to maintain a reduced level of campus operations meaning that the school would be run through remote or online interaction. This includes online classes and on-campus wages being delivered through direct deposit. Once university officials believe the Avian Flu has been controlled on campus the university would begin its recovery process.

The University of Maryland also created a hand washing campaign which focuses on teaching students, faculty and staff the importance of washing their hands. Officials hoped to encourage students to wash their hands multiple times a day by putting up flyers around the university promoting the cause. These flyers, which are still posted throughout campus, have step-by-step information on the proper way for people to wipe themselves clean of germs. Flu prevention experts recommend everyone washes their hands with soap and water multiple times throughout the day.

One main step the university also took was the establishment of The Pandemic Flu Assessment Team. The group consists of campus experts that have planned and prepared specific pandemic flu response procedures. These procedures include plans for ill students who reside on campus to get home safely before travel restrictions begin.

College students are at higher risk for contracting the flu due to irregular schedules, improper nutrition and lack of sleep. In addition, students go to class, party and eat together. It is easy for a disease to spread when people are in constant contact.  About 200,000 people are hospitalized from the flu and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people die from flu-related illnesses every year, according to WebMD.

The flu spreads person-to-person through droplets created when those infected talk, sneeze or cough. A person can also risk infection if they touch an object that someone with the flu came in contact with. According to the CDC, you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

“We are really at the tail end of the flu season,” said David McBride, M.D., the director of the University Health Center. Mr. McBride was unable to make time to speak with me directly about the university’s flu policies.