UH guards against possible outbreak
Texas Department of State Health Services advises everyone to take proper precaution for the H1N1 virus as the flu season approaches.
TDSHS gathered the emergency response community Wednesday at the Northwest Forest Conference Center to prepare for a possible H1N1 outbreak.
Assistant commissioner of the Division for Regional and Local Health Services James Morgan spoke to approximately 290 concerned state partners in an attempt to ready them for a possible mass flare-up.
Morgan also offered advice for students as they return to school.
‘They need to be just as concerned as any year, (and) take care of themselves by eating right and sleeping enough,’ Morgan said.
Morgan said students should avoid ‘people who appear to be sick,’ and get the H1N1 vaccination when it is available in October.
Symptoms of the virus include cough, fever, runny nose and body aches. Additional symptoms can be found on texasflu.org.
According to TDSHS, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population falls ill with the flu each year.
The virus mostly infects people from six months to 24-years-old, according to the Center for Disease Control, but many students at UH claim that they are ready for the flu season.
Management information systems senior Julian Arias said the responders who attended the conference are ‘more prepared and alert.’
Arias also said he is worried because of the large population of people in Houston who could quickly spread the illness.
‘Everyone is so panicked,’ Arias said. ‘I’m not necessarily scared, but more cautious.’
Construction management junior David Cummings said people will ‘still gather, despite the epidemic.’
Arias and Cummings both said washing their hands, the CDC’s No. 1 combatant against H1N1, is the best form of preparation.
A major factor in spreading the flu is contact between people.
Classical studies junior Konrad Silwowski said because UH is ‘a commuter school, it would be easy to limit the population exposed’ to H1N1.
Morgan agreed to an extent, saying that because people commute, they could ‘introduce a virus to the population,’ but because the bulk of UH students do not live in the residence halls, it would be harder for a mass outbreak.
Kinesiology sophomore Jay Sutaria proposed that UH put hand sanitizer dispensers around campus.
‘You go to the gym and all kinds of people are touching the equipment,’ Sutaria said.
‘You don’t really know who is infected. It only makes sense to sanitize yourself.’
Sutaria and Midori Sellers, mother of freshman Charles Sellers, both said they believe UH is not ready for a pandemic outbreak.
Sutaria said he visited the Student Health Services Center and witnessed ‘not enough staff’ for the population of students.
University Health Center Director Floyd Robinson could not be reached for comment before publishing deadline.
In an open letter to the UH community Robinson said, ‘We expect to see more cases this fall, consistent with what is happening in public communities. We strongly encourage all members of the UH community to take the standard precautions adopted during the flu season-and to play an active role in our public health prevention efforts.’
UH administration is working with health authorities, who will provide guidelines on contingency plans, Vice President of Student Affairs Elwyn Lee said.
He also said UH will hold a special committee meeting Sept. 10 for further discussion of the issue.
Sellers called on UH professors to help students if an outbreak occurs.
‘I would hope professors would take steps in aiding their students to take classes online,’ Sellers said.
Sellers said she wasn’t worried about her son catching H1N1 and that it was ‘more of a concern last year.’
During the conference, Morgan said ‘H1N1 does not seem any worse as far as the mortality rate.’
The students interviewed said UH should close if there is an outbreak in Houston or at the school.
‘Health comes first and classes should be canceled,’ Sutaria said.