Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pandemic Training

Over the last few weeks on our campus, we have been under an injunction to get 'trained' for the eventuality that we may one day get hit by a flu pandemic. Everyone is required to undergo this 'training' and then sign a form acknowledging having completed the task.

The 'training' itself actually amounts to watching a half-hour presentation on DVD. This can either be done with others in one of the mass screenings, or simply watching the DVD on one's own computer. I am happy to say that I am now fully 'trained'.

The DVD presentation is quite 'special' (in the sense of 'special education'). It consists of campus 'stars' -- the media person, the health care worker, the safety guy and the campus cop, who discuss the issues we need to know about. I threatened to post the video to YouTube and the media person host begged me not to, for fear of the embarrassment. This gives an idea of the thrilling nature of this video nasty.

The video itself starts off in a rather unpromising manner, by explaining the 'flu' is actually short for 'influenza'. The accompanying Power Point graphic really helped me remember this vital information. The health care worker then helpfully explains that influenza is a kind of virus. Of course, this was the first laugh in the video, as the claim is simply not true! As the CDC tells us, there are at least three kinds of flu virus. Oh well, who would expect a University person to get the facts correct?

What follows is then an amusing segment on how flu is spread. The video recommends practising 'safe coughing' and 'safe sneezing'. Who would have thought that there were such things? Perhaps a little less savory was the advice (again from the medical person), that one should cough, or sneeze into one's sleeve, should a tissue not be available! I seem to recall my Mother having quite strong views, which contradicted this advice. They did have a great picture of someone sneezing though, a bit like this one -- Nice! (Tasteful).

The next great bit of advice was that we should wash our hands in hot water for twenty seconds on a regular basis. Now, this seems like sound advice, or at least it would be, if there was any hot water available in my building. This sounded almost as practical as the advice that we should wear face masks.

Next, the presentation moved on to a discussion of pandemic flu. There was a certain post-modern feel to this part of the presentation. For instance, we were first informed (with more 'helpful' Power Point slides) that flu could only be spread between members of the same species. However, they then went on to explain that flu could also be spread across species (WTF? only Derrida could reconcile those claims). This was the moment at which the dreaded 'bird flu' was introduced, accompanied by lots more worrying sounding statistics, presented via yet more Power Point. These slides were done in an ominous grey.

The final phase of the presentation concerned our University Pandemic plan. Apparently, we are currently in phase one of this plan, where we get to watch silly DVDs. Should a pandemic flu show up we will move to phase two, in which we are supposed to watch the news, keep at least three feet from one another and prepare for phase three. In phase three, the campus will close and we will watch more news. We may get sick too. Eventually, phase four will follow and the campus will open again. Of course, phase four is exactly the same as phase two, as there may be further pandemic outbreaks.

The conclusion of the video just repeated the information we had already heard, along with some recommendations. These recommendations appeared to be identical to the standard hurricane preparedness texts. After all, why should we need to stockpile flashlights during a pandemic?

So, I now feel fully trained and ready for a flu pandemic. I have signed the form. Apparently, detailed plans will be distributed in the near future. I'm sure that the 'think safe' memo is being prepared for the philosophy department, as I write...Jeez!

The CP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the flu is caused by a virus - so is what we call the common cold.

There are hundreds of viruses that cause our colds, and many flu viruses as well. The flu viruses are divided into three groups - influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C.

The virus that causes what we're calling bird flu is the H5N1 virus - an influenza A virus.


6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic was very similiar to the H5N1 virus.

That virus caused the same "cytokine storm" - an over-reaction of the immune system that kills the patient. We are seeing this in the H5N1 patients.

It also targeted healthy children, teens and young adults rather than infants and the elderly as in our usual seasonal flu.

The 1918 pandemic killed between 50 and 100 million people. We have no reason to think that we'd have an easier thime now.

There is no vaccine and one can't be produced until after the pandemic begins. It will take at least 6 to 9 months for the first doses which will be reserved for healthcare workers.

We have antiviral drugs, but only enough for a very small part of our population.

It is expected that hospitals will not be able to take care of all influenza patients and most will be taken care of at home.

The reason that they mentioned flashlights is that many people are expected to become ill and many things that we take for granted now may not be available to us during a pandemic - electricity, garbage pickup, transportation, food deliveries.

People really should be getting together a stockpile of nonperishable food, water, baby food, over the counter medicines, etc.

The virus has spread in birds through Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

It is acquring the changes needed to transmit easily from person to person.

It has the makings of a catastrophe.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U'll need lots of flashlights, because all the utilities workers will be dead, or sick at home, or they may just not show up 2 work at all. We need humans 2 run the electric.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please post it to YouTube.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Oso Raro said...

Sqwak, sqwak! Chicken flu! Chicken flu!

Surprisingly, or not as the case may be, pandemic planning is the latest thing, after a brief interlude. I have attended many sessions myself, both at Cold City U. and through other community activities, on the coming Bird Flu.

At CCU, the university system requested each campus prepare an action plan. So CCU faculty, in all earnestness, sent them a detailed and well-considered map of how classes could continue online, work would continue, etc. System returned the plan with a note: No, we want to know how you will shut down and yet give students their grades. One of their more ridiculous suggestions was preparing 6, 8, and 12 week syllabi in case of pandemic.

Well, needless to say, the overriding feeling among the fac was, "Will the last person make sure to turn out the lights?" If the Chicken flu pandemic is as severe as everyone fears, the last thing on anyone's mind will be grading, I can assure you.

NB: Mike Davis's book on Chicken Flu is mighty fine reading; in fact, it's finger licking good!

11:06 AM  
Blogger Tenured Radical said...

This sounds almost as useful as the practice we did at Zenith for the possibility of a Virginia-Tech like event. This consisted of receiving telephone calls at the office, home and cell; a text message; and an email message. We hen had to respond to each to say it was accurate.

But I wonder what the message, in real life, would say? "Somebody is running around campus shooting people. Don't come to school."

9:56 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Sigh! So a bunch of Ph.D.s get to watch a movie telling them what they already know. What else is new here?
Nice talking to you this afternoon.

3:09 PM  
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9:18 PM  
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9:43 PM  
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8:47 AM  

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