As the school year begins, a potentially lethal virus known as the Avian Flu has university health officials concerned.
According to CU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, the Avian Flu is transmitted through the direct contact of birds. Since it has not spread to the Western Hemisphere, authorities are concerned about the lack of immunity humans have to the virus. This virus cannot be transmitted from one human to the next, which is the only thing that has prevented its spread.
The potential for the virus to mutate to the point of contagion is debatable. According to CU’s Department of Health and Safety, some scientists say it will never mutate that way, but others are sure that we are on the cusp of a severe pandemic.
“It’s really great to know that the university is concerned about its students. But since Avian Flu hasn’t mutated to a point where it is dangerous to humans, I think they should be focusing their attention on something more evident,” said Jessica Metzler, a sophomore political science major.
Despite the unknown future of the virus, the university has set in action a plan to try to prevent or control an outbreak among students and faculty.
The Pandemic Planning Committee, under the Emergency Response Plan developed by the university, “is working hard to communicate with people how to prepare for this potential pandemic,” said Sylvia Dane of the CU Department of Health and Safety.
According to the established plan, up to 40 percent of students and faculty could be absent from the university if the Avian Flu hit campus.
Should the worst-case scenario hit Boulder, the direct actions taken will be determined by the public health agencies at the county and state levels.
According to Dane, actions could include canceling large gatherings such as sporting events and potentially closing the university for up to 8 weeks.
“If I weren’t sick and school was closed for 8 weeks, I would be pissed. I know that at some point we would have to make that time up and it would probably be during the summer,” said Laura Challman, a sophomore finance major.
A Pandemic Communications organization, which meets twice a month, has also been established to keep students informed about how to stay healthy.
“We want to reach the student body when flu season hits,” Dane said. “We encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine and keep things like aspirin and soup available should they be infected.”
Dane also said doctors closely monitor how often and what patients are coming in for so they can keep an eye out for an outbreak of the Avian Flu.
Students are asked to wash their hands and take other flu precautions, such as exercising regularly and eating well, come flu season. Should the need arise, the Pandemic Response Plan will inform the student body exactly what to do to avoid infection.
“We really want to have everyone involved in this matter,” Dane said. “It’s something that can always be worked on and should be taken seriously.”