Swine Flu Town Hall Meeting
BSU Students Advised on Pandemic Prevention
By Bekah Oester
Students gathered in the Center for Learning and Technology on April 30 for a town hall meeting regarding the rapidly spreading swine flu. Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Artie Travis moderated the meeting and experts on health and safety Dr. Rita Wutoh and Bowie State University police chief Ernest Waiters spoke to students regarding the issue.
According to Wutoh, the swine flu, or H1NI virus, is "so rapidly evolving and changing" that a presentation she received the night before had already become outdated by the time of the meeting. Within a day's time, nearly 20 additional confirmed cases of the flu in the United States had been confirmed. At the time of the meeting, there were a total of 109 confirmed cases in the United States and one death resulting from the swine flu. Also at the time of the meeting, six probable cases were reported in the state of Maryland. Currently, all confirmed cases had either recently traveled to Mexico or come in contact with a relative who had done so.
The swine flu is considered a pandemic because it has spread globally. Currently, there are confirmed cases in nine nations throughout North America, South America and Europe.
Wutoh went over preventative measures that could be taken campus-wide to prevent the spread of the swine flu as well as other airborne illnesses. It is best to frequently wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer for 20-30 seconds as hands commonly spread germs. It is also important to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, handkerchiefs or sleeves to avoid germs from getting into the air. Sneezing or coughing into hands is not a good idea because it is easier to transmit the germs onto other surfaces.
Wutoh also mentioned that when dining, be sure to wipe down tabletops and wash hands before eating as germs and bacteria can live for up to two hours on such surfaces. It was also recommended that those who are ill voluntarily distance themselves from others to keep from spreading illnesses. It is best to stay at home and away from others.
Waiters and Wutoh both assured the BSU community that BSU is ready with an emergency management plan should the swine flu appear on campus. In an affected community, an epidemic can last six to eight weeks, so BSU would close temporarily if a case was confirmed on campus. Antiviral medications are also available to treat the illness.
Waiters gave additional advice and stressed the important of not panicking about the pandemic. "We don't want to overstate to create fear in our community," he said. Waiters also said he along with other campus officials would be practicing social distancing such as not standing to close to individuals with whom they talk to avoid the spreading of the contagious flu. "Don't be alarmed, and don't be offended by that," he said. Travis agreed, saying "The surest antidote to panic is knowledge, leadership and training."
BSU officials will do their part by making hand sanitizer and in some cases, sanitizing wipes available throughout campus. Students will also be kept informed through e-mail, BEES, and the swine flu page available on the BSU website. It is important that students sign up for BEES as well as check their campus e-mail regularly or have it forwarded to their personal e-mail accounts in order to stay informed at all times, officials said.
Symptoms of the swine flu are typical of those of the normal flu including fever, cough and/or sore throat. In addition to these symptoms specifically for the swine flu are nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. If you have these symptoms and have traveled within a week of experiencing them, or have come in contact with someone who has, stay home and call your physician.