October 25, 2007
Dear students, faculty and staff:
Avian influenza (subtype H5N1), the “bird flu,” is receiving a great deal of attention worldwide as confirmed cases of bird-to-human transmission have been reported in Asia. In late 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) began to alert the world’s countries to the possibilities of a pandemic flu outbreak on a scale similar to that of the Spanish flu of 1918. That pandemic caused an estimated loss of 50 million lives, and the pandemic that is now predicted is estimated to take the lives of as many as 25% of the population in those countries that would be severely impacted. Past pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and severe economic loss.
As a result, world health organizations, U.S. health organizations, and many institutions are developing plans in the event an outbreak among humans occurs. The impact at Kutztown University may include unprecedented demands upon student health services, relocation of resident students, the implementation of quarantine sites, debilitating illness among staff and faculty, reduction in work force, essential services hampered, and significant loss of tuition revenue and non-returning students.
Given the amount of warnings and guidance offered by governmental agencies and the encouragement to develop a response plan, failure to have a plan is irresponsible and may in of itself create liability for the institution. A Pandemic Preparedness Task Force has been assigned to develop a comprehensive emergency response plan to augment the University Emergency Preparedness Plan. To that end, the task force has developed a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) template to assist each division in creating a plan for their areas. Departments under each division are strongly encouraged to take the hour or two to complete and submit their plan by December 15, 2007. The COOP template can be accessed from the web site address listed below.
Although there is no immediate threat of an influenza pandemic reaching Pennsylvania, state and local officials are taking an aggressive approach to preparing for local outbreaks in birds and humans. Kutztown University is taking proactive measures to be prepared in case the avian flu affects our campus community.
To learn more about avian influenza and the campus response plan, visit the pandemic planning Web site at http://www.kutztown.edu/committees/pandemic/index.htm. In addition to information about the campus plan, the site offers responses to frequently asked questions, current updates, and resources to other avian flu sites.
F. Javier Cevallos