I imagine pretty much every university has been developing a plan for addressing a massive flu outbreak. My law school, Washington College of Law, has been extremely diligent, setting up web systems for holding classes using remote cams and distance learning, for example. It has offered free regular flu vaccinations to students and staff, and has installed hand sanitizers everywhere. Still, especially before Labor Day flu preparations of any kind seem a little remote and hypothetical to those of us who aren't health care providers ... then I saw this article, about a massive outbreak involving several thousand students, at a campus in Washington state.
Washington state's Whitman County, where the school is located said that tests at a state laboratory late last week "confirmed that the influenza outbreak at Washington State University (WSU)... is indeed caused by the novel 2009 H1N1 Influenza A."
The west-coast school last week instituted a blog to help provide information to students about the sudden and dramatic spread of the A(H1N1) virus on campus just days into the new school term.
"We estimate that we have been in contact with about 2,000 students with influenza-like illness in the first 10 days of our fall semester," the latest online posting said.
"At this time of year, we would typically only see a handful of patients with influenza-like illness. Health care providers in the local community have also seen WSU students with influenza-like illness, but we have no way of knowing how many.
"We also have no way of estimating how many students are self-caring at home without contacting us," school officials said.
Okay, this has all just hit me at a whole new level of reality check. I'm going to make sure my webcam is working. Between my school, with a vast number of students and faculty from all over the world constantly traveling during the semester, my wife's school, and my daughter's school, plus my own travel ... I am at the intersection of way too many disease vectors.
Update: Sorry - I wasn't clear - I'm not especially worried about getting sick. It's rather things like sizable numbers of students getting sick, classes canceled for days and weeks at a time, big mess, like what's going on at WSU. Not plague and death, but big disruption to students in the semester, when it is not a great time to have things like classes postponed and all, makeups that postpone exams and grades. The economic situation is bad enough not to compound it with any extra badness.