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What is the Avian Flu?

According the World Health Organization, Avian Influenza refers to “a large group of different influenza viruses that primarily affect birds. On rare occasions, these bird viruses can infect other species, including pigs and humans. The vast majority of avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. An influenza pandemic happens when a new virus subtype emerges that has not previously circulated in humans. For this reason, Avian (Flu) H5N1 is a strain with pandemic potential, since it might ultimately adapt into a strain that is contagious among humans. Once this adaptation occurs, it will no longer be a bird virus—it will be a human influenza virus. Influenza pandemics are caused by new influenza viruses that have adapted to humans.” (The World Health Organization)

The current threat has been generated by incidences of the H5N1 virus strain seen throughout Asia and Europe. One of the biggest concerns about this strain is its ability to infect a wide range of hosts, including birds and humans. Data indicate that most people will have no immunity to this pandemic virus. As a consequence, international health authorities are pointing to the strong possibility that infection and illness rates will likely be much higher than during seasonal epidemics of normal influenza.
For more information and resources on the Avian Flu virus and possible pandemic,
please consult these government agency sites:

Why does the College need to do to prepare for it?

Communities need to prepare for a pandemic because if a human-to-human transmission is identified, it has the potential to spread very quickly. An outbreak of this strain of the flu could significantly interrupt normal college functions for a period of two to four weeks or up to several months, and may require closure of on-campus housing and college operations. The college has taken aggressive steps to prepare a plan for the potential of such a pandemic in the best interest of minimizing the risk of exposure among faculty, staff and students.

What can you do to avoid exposure?

Avoid being around others who are at risk for exposure. As a pandemic emerges, do not kiss, hug, shake hands or come in close contact with others, particularly in large gatherings. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially if you suspect that you may have been exposed. Check your temperature regularly for several days after you suspect possible exposure and, should your temperature rise, see a physician immediately.

What will the College do in the event of a pandemic?

Should an outbreak occur the college will begin to activate its Emergency Response Plan. Steps will be taken to: (a) help faculty and students get home safely before national and international travel restrictions begin; (b) maintain a reduced level of key campus operations through remote or online interaction; and (c) communicate contingencies if phone or internet access becomes bogged down as a result of increased activity. Finally, and once the outbreak has been controlled, the college will begin its recovery process.

Wofford College’s Avian Flu Pandemic Response Plan will be activated in several escalating levels.  

  • Level 1: First case(s) of efficient human-to-human transmission internationally - Campus stays open, business as usual with enhanced planning. All operations will continue as usual, including classes but more specific steps will be taken to prepare for Level 2. Communication with the campus community will increase to keep everyone informed of plans being implemented.
     
  • Level 2: First verified case of human- to- human transmission in North America AND one or more other triggering events. They are (a) the World Health Organization declaration of Phase 6 in the pandemic period, reflecting an increased and sustained transmission in the general U.S. population, (b) confirmation of a high rate of infectivity, morbidity (rate of infection) and/or mortality (death rate), (c) rate/speed of disease spreading, (d) local public health recommendation to curtail/cancel public activities in county or state, (e) falling class attendance and student leaving campus, (f) rising employee absenteeism, (g) other regional schools and school systems closing, (h) transportation systems closing or curtailing interstate travel and (i) cases in the Southeast occurring early versus late in the overall U.S. experience with the unfolding pandemic.

    The Emergency Preparedness Committee will meet to discuss the latest information on the Avian Flu and its impact on the College. The decision will be made concerning the closing of the College after verifying that there has been a case of human- to -human transmission in North America and reviewing the triggering events data.

    Social distancing measures will be implemented; steps will be taken to eliminate large gatherings, including the cancellation of classes and all other scheduled activities. The Wellness Center and Counseling staff will begin to implement emergency response procedures. Administrative departments, Student Affairs and all academic programs will begin preparation for closing.
     
  • Level 3: Within 1-5 days of declaring Level 2 and depending on national and local conditions – All college residence halls will close; thereafter, as soon as practical, most administrative offices and academic buildings will close. Dining services will be reduced to support only an emergency medical clinic if necessary. All administrative and academic support units will begin shut down until the campus reopens.
     
  • Level 4: As soon as practical following Level 3 – Campus closed. An emergency condition has been declared and the campus has been evacuated. All facilities have closed except temporary emergency housing for students if necessary. Access to campus has been sealed off for vehicles and pedestrians (except for essential employees for tasks related to securing and maintaining the campus and its facilities), and closure is sustained. All service contracts and construction projects will be suspended.
     
  • Recovery level: Once the pandemic is under control – The decision to reopen the College will be made by the President of the College and his Cabinet in consultation with key administrators. Campus poised to reopen. Once the danger of the Avian Flu pandemic has passed, the campus will reopen for business. As services return to normal, accommodations for concerns that arose as part of the period of closure will be addressed.

What You Can Do Now to Prepare

Make an Emergency Plan Now

Your ability to stay healthy and to respond effectively will depend in part on your
advance planning. If a pandemic occurs, the college may have to evacuate for some period of time. To make sure you are ready to respond, think through your personal emergency plan and address the following considerations

Students  

  • If you live on or near campus and have to travel some distance to your permanent residence, what are your primary travel plans? Do you have a contingency?
  • If you plan to travel by air, do you have your travel agency or airline reservation information handy? Have you familiarized yourself with plans by the college departments, including Campus Safety, to arrange pick-up sites for shuttles to take you to public transportation destinations?
  • If you plan to drive, do you have at least one alternate route?
  • If you will be picked up, do you have contact information ready?
  • If you cannot get home, is there a friend or loved one who lives nearby who would agree to let you stay during a campus closure (for what could be an extended stay)?
  • If you live in a residence hall, ask your RA or RD what the procedures for evacuation might be. If you live in off-campus housing, check with your manager or landlord for what the evacuation procedures might be.

Students and Faculty

Academic Considerations

What should students and faculty prepare to have at home, in the event that the campus is closed, but academic activities continue remotely, through email or other communications? Some suggestions might be books and transportable, (non-hazardous, non-secure) research materials, laptop and portable technology devices. Syllabi for your classes, including faculty and student contact information. Individual course plans in the event of a campus evacuation. Email access and on-line learning options.

Faculty and Staff — Employee Considerations

What should staff prepare to have at home, in the event that the campus is closed, but continue certain business activities remotely, through email or other communications? Emergency contact information for your supervisor and colleagues with whom you will need to communicate, including email and mobile phone.

For managers and supervisors, department closing checklist plans; a list of essential employees and contacts; and Wofford College website bookmarks on your home computer. If appropriate, Internet access to email and college home page, through your home computer.

Pay that is due to employees at the time a disaster event occurs will be considered a first priority and is required by state law. Whereas, the college will make every effort to honor compensation agreements, the nature of the disaster may require the college to amend or delay payroll commitments. In the event of a campus closure any earnings you are scheduled to receive electronically will be issued electronically. Checks will be mailed to the home address. A disaster event such as an Avian Flu pandemic may interfere with normal mail delivery, prolonging receipt of your check. Direct deposit into your banking account will ensure your pay is received in a timely manner. Contact the Human Resource Office for information on direct deposit.

Will the college be able to reach you once you have evacuated?

The college may need to rely on phone and internet communications to remain in touch with you during a pandemic. Please make sure your contact information is up to date (both email and phone) for students in Banner

Do you have a personal emergency kit?

As a result of social distancing, evacuation, closures, and travel restrictions, it is a good idea to anticipate what personal items you will need to take and keep with you in the event of a pandemic. Food and water: preparation experts recommend at least a two-week supply of non-perishable items, so that you do not need to go to the store very often. Medications: fill prescriptions and have over-the-counter items in supply. Health and hygiene items: tissues, toilet paper, anti-bacterial (waterless) gel, soap, disinfecting cleaning solution, trash bags. Practical items: flashlight, portable radio with batteries, manual can opener. Contact information: have phone and email contact information for loved ones, as well as a previously identified third-party contact, in the event that you cannot reach a loved one directly.