Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Health center prepares for possibility of pandemic flu

Seasonal flu is a bad problem, says Dr. Sam Alexander, director of the University Health Center, but pandemic flu is the real fear.

“We’re not just planning, but practicing,” he says. “Because a pandemic will happen. It’s a matter of when.”

It’s not enough to have a book full of policies and procedures, Alexander says. Treatment needs to be “second nature,” so health practitioners “know where everything is, what to expect, who to contact, when to shut down dorms, when to suspend classes, where to get our supplies from.”

“People estimate that 40 percent of the workforce will be off sick. That includes people here at the Health and Counseling Center,” he says. “We need to continually practice.”

There have been 10 worldwide influenza pandemics in the last 300 years, including three in the 20th century: the 1918–19 Spanish flu; 1957–58 Asian flu and the 1968–69 Hong Kong flu.

The 1918–19 flu has been called the most destructive pandemic in recorded world history. More people died of the flu than died in all of World War I, an estimated 675,000 Americans of the 20 million to 40 million people the flu killed worldwide.

The hardest hit segment was people ages 20 to 40.

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