Apollonia Cifarelli is director of SFU’s environmental health & safety program. She can explain how SFU is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Emergency Management B.C. to ensure that all information on the H1N1 flu epidemic comes from one credible source in this kind of situation.
Apollonia Cifarelli, 778.782.4978, firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Q: With more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff at SFU, what concerns SFU the most about the potential spread of the H1N1 virus this fall in B.C., particularly in Vancouver?
A: Our biggest concern is whether our community has educated itself. Have we, through my department, provided enough information and direction to help members of the SFU community educate themselves? We want to ensure we provide enough information and encourage people to educate themselves by visiting www.sfu.ca/H1N1
2) Q: How do you plan to handle any potential renewed outbreak of H1N1 cases, especially in B.C. and closer to home at SFU?
A: Our plans revolve around providing information and education so the SFU community knows where to get information.
SFU is also stepping up its infection control. We are in the process of installing hand-sanitizers where people are likely to consume food. They will be at the entrance to cafeterias and food courts; where we have large study areas and where people tend to eat and study. That doesn’t include our libraries because we tell people not to bring food there.
We are also creating a mini-poster of proper sneezing and coughing techniques and a reminder about the importance of regular hand washing. Information posters will be installed in each bathroom stall and above urinals to remind people of infection-control strategies.
In student residences, staff members are being trained to identify students with flu-like symptoms. Identified cases will be encouraged to remain in their rooms and not hang out in common areas, to help prevent spread of a suspected case of H1N1 viral infection.
Staff will ensure that self-isolated students get food and anything else they need delivered to them. If these students do need to enter public areas then we plan to provide them with surgical masks to help curtail germ transmission.
We’re observing PHAC’s recommendation that individuals with flu-like symptoms be advised to maintain a distance of two metres from others, to help reduce the spread of the virus.
We are encouraging members of the SFU community who are concerned they may have caught H1N1 to immediately call 8-1-1, HealthLinkBC, the provincial government’s healthcare advice line.
A nurse at 8-1-1 will review their symptoms on the phone and provide further direction. Callers may be directed to take in a lot of fluids, take medications for a fever or advised to do something else. If the nurse feels a person’s immunity is compromised then the caller may be advised to see a doctor and self-isolate.
The nurses staffing the 8-1-1 service are trained to deal with questions related to the H1N1 pandemic. Translation services are available in 130 languages. Deaf and hearing-impaired assistance is also available by calling 7-1-1.
3) Q: How is SFU monitoring developments concerning the H1N1 pandemic?
A: We’re monitoring the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) website for updates. We follow PHAC guidelines on health issues connected to H1N1.
In B.C., Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC), a division of the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is playing a strong coordinating role. If the PHAC designates a new outbreak, EMBC will coordinate the dissemination of multi-agency information.
EMBC coordinates the simultaneous sharing of information in an emergency situation—such as a flare up during a pandemic—among a multitude of public agencies, for example, health authorities, school boards and post-secondary institutions.
Information in a health emergency comes down through PHAC to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and then is disseminated by the EMBC to everyone simultaneously.
This immediate information-sharing helps keep messages consistent and clear and enables everyone to participate in sharing and resolving unforeseen consequences of newly enacted policies, procedures and instructions. B.C. has also established a lead site for H1N1 information at www.gov.bc.ca/h1n1
4) Q: Where should members of the SFU community and media go if they want the latest information about what is happening at SFU?
A: Everyone should go to the SFU home page (http://www.sfu.ca/
) where SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations (PAMR) (www.sfu.ca/pamr/
) will provide news updates on SFU’s response to new H1N1 outbreaks. We’ve established an e-mail address (email@example.com
) where people can pose questions not addressed at the designated website.
We have set up an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to monitor and coordinate actions at SFU in response to H1N1 pandemic developments, disseminate ongoing updates and address media questions.
Initially, the EOC will operate via conference calls as required. Conference-call frequency may be stepped up or a more permanent EOC may be established and staffed, if needed, to address external and internal SFU community concerns.
5) Q: How important is it that information about H1N1 come from a single credible source?
A: It is critical that the information come from a single credible source in a pandemic situation otherwise confusion and contradiction will arise, which feed anxiety and distrust. Given that we are a public, free-speaking, academic community, researchers with expertise in pandemic matters may differ on what should and shouldn’t be done. However, that has nothing to do with our mandate. As a public institution, we follow health directions handed down by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
6) Q: Will you be publicizing the occurrence of H1N1 cases at SFU?
A: We would say we have reports of cases but it would be hard to give the number of reported cases because we have no way of ensuring their accuracy. Such numbers are based on self-reporting and, given that numbers attached to official diagnoses will fluctuate constantly, we can’t be sure whether a reported number of cases is accurate or for how long that number would be accurate.
However, we will be open and transparent about any H1N1 pandemic developments at SFU.