UT Officials Preparing for Possible Epidemic

With the swine flu spreading in several countries, traveling from Mexico to Spain and China, students wonder how it could affect them.

Resulting from a strain mutation, the virus can be passed on from swine to humans.

North American Influenza is spread by close exposure to ill people, such as being coughed on, sneezed on or touched. The Center for Disease Control is developing a vaccine for the virus, which should be included in the new flu shot this fall. The 2008 flu shot did not contain a vaccine against North American Influenza. The disease does respond to antiviral prescription drugs commonly administered to flu patients such as Tamiflu and Relenza.

On April 28, the university’s Emergency Operations Team sent out a global mail, stating:
‘The University of Tampa is closely monitoring developments regarding the swine influenza outbreak that is being widely reported on by the media…The UT Student Health Center is actively involved with the state wide surveillance system for all influenza and has the ability to test for influenza and, if necessary, to submit a positive test to the state laboratory for confirmation of swine flu. If you have these symptoms contact the Student Health Center for an appointment…The Health Center discourages ‘drop ins’ to minimize student to student exposure.’ If you have flu symptoms and are not a participant in UT’s Student Health Plan, please contact your primary care provider…The University’s Emergency Operations Team will continue to monitor the situation and update the University community as the situation evolves.’

Some UT students believe this is nothing to worry about here in Tampa.

‘ ‘I think everyone is overreacting,’ freshman Mary Slagel said. ‘The reason why so many people got it in Mexico is their health system.’

‘It is blown over proportion,’ said junior Joshua Long. ‘People are overreacting.’

Junior Michael Long said the situation is nothing for him to fret over, despite recent traveling.
‘Well I just came back from N.Y., and really am not worried,’ he said. ‘Right now, there have been so few cases of it. I have a better chance of getting the regular flu than I do the swine flu. If the situation changes, and there is a significant outbreak, then I will start to worry but right now, it’s too soon to panic.’

Officials issued the warning as physicians confirmed 20 cases in five states across the country.

While no cases have been reported in the southeastern United States, hospitals around the world have prepared for the worst.

‘There is a reason to be concerned,’ said Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. ‘If there wasn’t, the government would not be taking this rather extraordinary step.’

An emergency declaration will focus government resources on containing the spread of the virus, Kimberlin said. The World Health Organization will decide Tuesday whether to raise the pandemic alert level.

The majority of cases have been reported in Mexico, where 81 people have died of suspected swine flu and more than 1,300 have been sickened, according to the Associated Press.
However, health officials also reported cases in Asia and Europe.

Federal officials have not ruled out travel restrictions in an effort to limit the virus, but a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flew to Mexico City to assist health authorities there.

The United States also tapped into its emergency stockpile of medicines, which doctors hope will work against the specific strain of flu.

According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the United States declared the emergency out of caution and vigilance.

‘We’re preparing in an environment where we really don’t know ultimately what the size of seriousness of this outbreak is going to be,’ Napolitano said during a press conference Sunday.

The virus’ effects are also being felt at New York University ‘mdash; at least one professor canceled a final.

Contributions to this article were made by UWIRE.

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