Human-to-human cases of the swine influenza A (H1N1) have come in close enough proximity to San Francisco to cause USF officials to prepare what they would do if the virus came to campus. As of Monday evening, there were 48 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 13 in California, the closest being in Sacramento County, which is approximately 90 miles from USF.
USF has long had plans ready for how various departments would act in the event of a pandemic. The plans were drawn up several years ago when the avian flu was of grave concern. After department heads met on Monday, they agreed to place the flu at level one risk on the University’s scale of zero to three. Level one indicates that human-to-human contact has been confirmed. Level three would mean there were confirmed cases at USF.
Department heads are now enacting their level one tasks: for example, Dan Lawson, director of Public Safety, launched an email campaign warning the community, and Holly Winslow, general manager of Bon Appetit at USF, ensured adequate food supply was on hand for an emergency situation. Other concerns would be to figure out where students could be housed on campus if they needed to be quarantined or how the USF clinic at St. Mary’s would deal with an influx of ill students. The full plan is available on public safety’s web site.
John Troccoe, emergency management consultant to the University, helped draft the original plan for the avian flu and finds it applicable for any potential pandemic. Troccoe did not seem concerned about the health and safety of USF as of Monday afternoon. He said, “I think it’s really manageable right now. It’s not a pandemic.” But he also believed it was likely that cases would come to San Francisco because of the “transient nature” of the city’s residents.
He said if a USF student were diagnosed with swine flu, he or she would probably be prescribed with a medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza that helps relieve the severity of flu symptoms. Then, he said, “The student could be quarantined if necessary, or else just be asked to stay in and not come in contact with anyone.”
Kamal Harb, director of Health Promotion Services at USF, recommended that anyone who feels ill should see a doctor as a precautionary measure. He said the swine flu does not have any distinguishing symptoms that make it stand out from other illnesses, so anyone experiencing regular flu symptoms should see a doctor. Some symptoms to be alert for are “fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” according to the Center of Disease Control website.
Troccoe encouraged students to get medical attention immediately if they have experience these symptoms. In the event that someone did have swine flu, the possibility for an easy recovery would be much greater if treated within 48 hours.
The flu originated in Mexico, where the number of people infected is in the thousands, and 149 have already died from it by Monday’s statistics. Fortunately, students who traveled to Mexico over spring break need not worry that they contracted the flu on their trip, Troccoe said. Swine flu takes six to seven days to become active, so symptoms would have appeared long ago.