Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

Baker prepares for pandemic influenza

March 8, 2007

If a new virus, such as the bird flu, were to make its way to Kansas, Baker University is doing what it can to be ready.

On Monday night, Baker hosted the "Preparing for Pandemic Influenza" at Rice Auditorium. The event's purpose was to present information on how to prepare for the avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu.

Kim Ens, disease control program coordinator from the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, was the speaker Monday.

"I think it is really important as people in Douglas County, to start thinking about how we can get involved and help," Ens said.

Ens has worked closely with Ruth Sarna, Baker University's director of student health services, in creating a plan for the school.

"She's been my resource for a lot of the things that we've been working on to get our plan at Baker," Sarna said.

Baker has created a taskforce to prepare a plan if a pandemic should occur.

"We have met since last May to begin drafting the plan," Sarna said. "We had all of the different directors of each area together to get a plan in place. We need people to start thinking about the what ifs and go from there."

Ens began her presentation by explaining a pandemic and how it is spread. Then she moved on to the bird flu, which is mostly carried through poultry and other wild birds and ducks.

The only people that have been affected are those who have close contact with the infected birds.

There have been no cases of the bird flu reported in the United States, but 277 people cases have been reported world wide. Of the 277 people, 167 of them died.

Ens emphasized how people should prepare for such an illness, if it should affect the U.S. Some of the ways people can be prepared were to work with health care partners, have plans for pandemic and to educate the public, according to Ens.

Other ways people can avoid the influenza are to wash hands with soap and water, cover coughs with sleeve, stay home when sick, avoid crowds and vaccination.

Her final message Monday focused on what to do if the virus infects a person. Ens said the person should stay home and be isolated and quarantined.

Sarna thought the presentation attracted approximately 400 people Monday night. Many of those viewers were Baker students, which pleased her.

"I was very pleased with the student turnout," Sarna said. "They came through. I think it's important that they start thinking about it and tell their families to start thinking about."

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