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Southeastern is dedicated to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for the many students, faculty, staff and visitors who visit our campus. University administration monitors influenza safety on campus. Any student reporting to the University Health Center with flu-like symptoms will be advised of steps that can be taken to minimize symptoms and when to seek emergency medical treatment.
Pandemic influenza can be any virus that is easily spread and which can possibly cause
serious illness and death. It differs from the usual "seasonal" outbreaks of flu in
that it is a new virus to people and is likely to affect many more people and a broader
set of the population, including young adults, than seasonal influenza.
Flu viruses are constantly changing and appear just about every year. Pandemic influenza,
however, has occurred three times in the last century, the most serious being the
1918 pandemic that killed tens of millions of people worldwide. Epidemiologists scientists
who study disease outbreaks are predicting that statistically the world is at risk
for another pandemic in the relatively near future. And a severe pandemic would most
likely change daily life for a period of time, including limitations on travel and
The short answer is "possibly," because this is a new virus that has the potential
to become lethal and possibly develop into a pandemic influenza. The avian flu is
spreading from birds to other animals and the virus has infected some people. In very
rare cases, the virus has spread from one person to another. Currently, vaccines are
being developed to possibly limit the spread of this disease; however, Swine Influenza
A viruses and/or a combination of human and bird viruses must be considered as well.
Because of the amount of worldwide travel, once pandemic influenza begins, it is likely
to spread very rapidly. Influenza is an air-borne disease, meaning that it is usually
spread by infected people coughing and sneezing. And, since this would likely be a
new virus, most people would have little or no immunity to the disease. In general,
however, most people who get sick will recover from the illness.
People who already have a health problem or who have weakened immune systems are likely
to be at higher risk. Young children and older people tend to be at higher risk for
disease as well. In addition, young adults -- college-age students, for example --
could be at higher risk than the general population.
Right now the federal government and private pharmaceutical companies are developing
possible vaccines that could be used to immunize people in the event of an outbreak.
Antiviral medications which can only be obtained by prescription may also be used
to lessen the severity of the disease. Plans are being developed to dispense these
medications more easily if the situation warrants it. Seasonal influenza vaccines
may not adequately cover new viral strains.
That's difficult to predict because so many variables are at play here. Estimates
range from six weeks to two months for a pandemic virus impact on a region.
The university will implement an emergency response plan should a pandemic influenza
affect this region. This includes the possibility of canceling classes for a period,
setting up Internet or other distance learning programs, the possibility of shutting
down residence halls, and the need to create an on-campus infirmary for individuals
who need that assistance or who may need to be isolated from others. The campus community
will be kept fully informed of any developments or policies that affect students and
staff in the event of a pandemic outbreak.
Remember, right now there is no pandemic influenza in the U.S. or the world. It is
important, however, that individuals stay informed about these developments, either
through the University Health Center or via reliable Internet resources, such as www.pandemicflu.gov.
The University Health Center (985-549-2241) has additional information on pandemic influenza. In addition, the federal government maintains up-to-date, factual information and advice at www.pandemicflu.gov.