June 10, 2009

World Health Organization raises pandemic level

Posted: June 10, 2009

The World Health Organization has declared a stage six pandemic, raising its pandemic level from stage five. The organization raised its level to stage six to reflect widespread worldwide cases of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

Arizona State University health officials have expected the World Health Organization to declare a stage six pandemic because of the virus’ global spread. The designation of stage six doesn’t reflect a change in the severity of H1N1, but it does indicate that the disease is widespread.

The H1N1 virus has thus far produced mild flu symptoms, except in those with underlying medical conditions.

“H1N1 cases seen at ASU have responded well to anti-viral medications. We’ve had two confirmed cases and are preparing for students’ return in the fall,” says Dr. Allan Markus, ASU Campus Health Services director.

“The World Health Organization’s declaring a stage six pandemic should not alarm the university, since the strain is still mild at this point, and the declaration reflects the number of cases rather than the severity of the strain,” Markus says.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) the current H1N1 mortality rate is .14 percent in the United States and a worldwide mortality rate of .6 percent. The university will continue to maintain normal operations at this time.

“The Pandemic Flu Executive Committee has been and will continue to meet on a regular basis to address the needs of the university during a pandemic,” Markus says. “We’re developing a strategy for a large-scale fall vaccination campaign for students, faculty and staff for both the regular seasonal flu and also for the H1N1 virus, in anticipation of a vaccine currently under development.”

ASU's health officials are also urging students, faculty and staff to stock up on medical supplies such as acetaminophen (example: Tylenol) and ibuprofen (example: Motrin). According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for Colleges and Universities, students should have a two-week supply of over-the-counter medications to treat mild flu symptoms.

ASU is working with county and state health departments and following CDC guidance for higher education institutions. The university has put into action a robust plan that was developed three years ago to protect the health and safety of its students in case of a widespread flu virus outbreak.

ASU’s health officials are advising ill students with moderate to severe flu symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat, headache, runny nose, general fatigue, muscle pains, diarrhea and vomiting to go to any one of the health centers located on their four campuses to be checked. ASU students, faculty and staff who are sick should avoid contact with large groups by staying home until they are better or their primary care doctor tells them that they are no longer infectious to others.

ASU is advising those students or faculty who are traveling to other countries to confer with their health-care provider or visit the ASU Travel Clinic to get more information on health risks and prevention before they go.

More Information may be obtained about H1N1 from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the ASU Pandemic Flu web site (www.asu.edu/pandemic).

Information about ASU’s Health Service can be found at ASU Campus Health Service and at (480) 965-1102 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays. For an explanation of the World Health Organization‘s various Epidemic and Pandemic Alert system alerts and for the current status, visit the World Health Organization - Alerts site.