University prepared for H1N1 on campus

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

Dr. Ewart gives Peter Soberlak of the Physical Education department the Agriflu vaccination. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

Dr. Ewart gives Peter Soberlak of the Physical Education department the Agriflu vaccination. Karla Karcioglu/The Omega

TRU manager of health and safety Stacey Jyrkkanen is monitoring B.C.’s H1N1 influenza cases, but she has no immediate concerns about the TRU community.

“I don’t see it as a big issue at the moment,” Jyrkkanen said, noting that if it were to become an issue on campus, TRU does have a contingency plan.

The plan is the same one TRU used for the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, which the World Health Organization categorized as a phase 6 global pandemic in June, when nearly 30,000 cases were confirmed in 72 countries.

According to Jyrkkanen, health authorities work with doctors’ offices and medical clinics to keep tabs on flu cases by having doctors report the number of influenza-like illness to the Interior Health Authority.

Those numbers don’t confirm H1N1, which can only be determined with a blood test, but it helps create data to track the illness. If the health authority spots clusters or trends in the data, Jyrkkanen said they will then issue a notification to doctors in the area and then the health authority will take over and then implement their protocols.

If that notification is received at TRU, the Pandemic Planning Preparedness Committee will engage. It consists of key members of the university and external consultants from Interior Health Authority, Public Health Agency of Canada and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The university has separate plans for students, employees, residences and parents because each group has unique needs.

The TRU contingency plan includes three main priorities for the university: “to preserve and protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of all members of the University community; to continue to operate as normally as possible to minimize the disruption of instruction, research, and the day to day activities in the workplace; and to provide responsive communication to all members of the University community during and post pandemic influenza.”

Right now Jyrkkanen recommends getting a flu shot, washing your hands, wearing a face mask, coughing or sneezing into your shoulder or elbow as opposed to your hands, not touching your face, and staying home if you feel sick in order to prevent the spread of any flu symptoms.

In 2009 Jyrkkanen said there was a number of cases on campus, luckily not enough to shut down the university. She doesn’t expect the same amount of cases this flu season.

“It’s not something we are concerned about,” Jyrkkanen said, “but we will be keeping an eye out.”

Medical health officer Rob Parker works for the Interior Health Authority. He said that over the last few weeks there have been increasing influenza lab reports. The death of an Okanagan woman in her 50s was the first confirmed H1N1 death in B.C. of this year’s flu season.

Parker said that B.C. and the Interior are still in an upswing and we haven’t peaked yet. He expects more flu activity in the next several weeks and urges people to go get the flu shot because it’s not too late.

Alberta has recently started providing mass immunizations to tackle the outbreak of H1N1.

It takes two weeks for the flu shot to become effective. Parker said supplies are limited and doctors may soon begin to run out.

Those looking to get a flu shot can check with the TRU medical clinic by calling 250-828-5126.