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UW Prepares and Plans for H1N1


August 28, 2009 — As fall approaches and college campuses across the United States fill with students, the risk of H1N1 (swine flu) outbreaks increases.

Nancy Fox, director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Wyoming, heads a committee that has been preparing and planning for a possible pandemic for some time. She says that in April UW began implementing aspects of the pandemic plan in response to the H1N1 situation.

Fox offers information on pandemic planning at UW:

UW began a comprehensive pandemic planning process over three years ago. This planning process had strong representation from all campus departments and units. As a result of this effort, UW developed an effective response framework for any potential pandemic outbreak impacting the UW campus.

This spring the UW Pandemic Panning Group (PPG) was re-convened in response to the H1N1 (swine flu) situation. The planning group updated the UW plan and placed the campus at a University designated level two (2) status: "Pandemic Alert." Due to the ability of the virus to spread easily from human to human, its presence in multiple areas of the world, and because it is a new novel flu strain, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on June 12, 2009.

Because H1N1 to date has been less severe in comparison to regular influenza and because there have been relatively few cases in the county, the campus has remained at this Pandemic Alert level for the past four months. The UW PPG is now actively engaged in monitoring, planning and responding to the current HIN1 virus. The group will participate in a UW pandemic tabletop exercise scheduled for Sept. 15.

The University continues to work closely with the Albany County Public Health Department to monitor flu conditions, make decisions about the best steps to take concerning UW and to make provisions for H1N1 influenza vaccination to campus employees and students as the vaccine becomes available. More information on vaccination will be forthcoming. Individuals may check the UW H1N1 swine flu link on the University's home page for up-to-date information.

Here are a few important things you can do right now to help:

-- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective. Clean faucet handles with paper towels used to dry hands.

-- Practice respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue after use. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not into your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; viruses are spread this way.

-- Encourage your co-workers and fellow students to practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

-- Know the signs and symptoms of the flu. A fever is a temperature taken with a thermometer that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Look for possible signs of fever: If the person feels very warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating or shivering. Symptoms of flu include fever or chills and cough or sore throat. In addition, symptoms of flu can include runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea or vomiting.

-- Stay home if you have flu or flu-like illness for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Don't go to class or work.

-- Talk with your health care providers about whether you should be vaccinated for seasonal flu. Also if you are at higher risk for flu complications from 2009 H1N1 flu, you should consider getting the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. People at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 flu complications include pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes). For more information about priority groups for vaccination, visit www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm.

These simple steps can help slow down the spread of influenza.

Posted on Friday, August 28, 2009

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