UNCP unveils bird flu plan
By Robert Deckert
Pandemic Influenza. These words alone set off one’s imagination with a bombardment of questions: What is pandemic influenza? How can I prevent myself from becoming infected? What happens to me if I am?
According to a University information release to the community, avian influenza is a disease of birds caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These viruses occur naturally in birds and are usually carried in their intestines.
This virus is very contagious among birds and, in some cases, has killed chickens, ducks and turkeys.
However, the virus is not being spread by human beings. A human can only contract the virus from a bird.
Infected birds spread the virus in their saliva, nasal secretions and feces. The vast majority of avian influenza cases in humans in other countries have resulted from close contact with infected poultry.
Avian influenza A (H5N1) is a subtype of the influenza A strain of virus that occurs mainly in birds. Recently, an H5N1 virus in Asia has caused severe disease in birds, humans and other animals.
Humans may display a wide range of symptoms if contracted with the bird flu, such as eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory disease, as well as typical flu-like symptoms.
Although the bird flu has not reached the United States, people are still taking precautions, including UNCP.
UNCP is currently in the development stages of a contingency plan in the case of a pandemic influenza outbreak.
UNCP is working very closely with the local health department in fulfilling its request that all 16 universities of the North Carolina system create an emergency plan to professionally deal with an influenza pandemic outbreak.
Cora Bullard, director of Student Health Services, has assured that appropriate measures are being taken in the development of this emergency plan.
In the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak, the university itself will be utilized as a treatment center.
If the treatment center is understaffed, Bullard has said that the Nursing Department may become involved in the assistance of the center.
Glen Burnette, vice chancellor for University and Community Relations, said in a release that extra care is being considered in the emergency plan.
Areas that will have a greater risk of being affected include housing department, food services and student health services.
At this time, there are no travel restrictions for faculty, staff and students traveling abroad or for those planning to visit campus from abroad.
If a major outbreak occurs, travel restrictions will more than likely be enforced.
For emergency crisis plans and hotlines see www.uncp.edu/relations.
Additional information about the influenza pandemic may be found at the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov.