Bowie, Md.— Less than 24 hours after Maryland officials announced they were investigating six probable cases of the Swine Flu (H1N1), Bowie State University held a Town Hall meeting today on campus. Dr. Rita Wutoh, Director of the Henry Wise Wellness Center, and Ernest Waiters, Director of Public Safety/Chief of Campus Police, discussed how the University is preparing the campus and the impact the virus could have on operations.
Wutoh said the University has a Pandemic Flu Committee, including members of each department and college, which has met twice this week to address the emergence of the virus. She said the committee will continue to meet regularly to address the changing needs on campus. She emphasized that the University has taken actions to prevent H1N1 from infecting the student and employee population. Information explaining the virus appears on the website, which provides updates and links to resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and local health agencies. Educational literature has been distributed across the campus and medical supplies including Tamiflu, flu detection kits, gloves and personal protective equipment for health personnel have been purchase. Housekeeping staff will increase the number of times they clean facilities and food service staff will increase the washing of tabletops. Policies are also under review regarding absenteeism and closing of the University should a confirmed case of the virus occur on campus. The committee is also coordinating operational plans for each department and college on campus so that instruction would resume as soon as reasonably possible during a closing.
“If you have a flu like illness and a history of travel to an affected area within seven days of illness onset or contact with an ill person who has traveled to an affected area within seven days of illness onset then stay home and call your doctor,” instructed Dr. Wutoh to those who attended the Town Hall meeting.
“We put our students’ and employees’ health and safety above all else,” said Artie Travis, vice president for student affairs. “We will continue to monitor the Swine Flu and consult with the Maryland health officials so that we can make the best decisions for our campus.”
Generally, the public safety department takes the lead in emergency situations, according to Chief Waiters, but during health emergencies, his office supports the wellness center. “Our public safety role at this time is to maintain order and prevent panic. If the situation gets more serious, we could possibly limit access to certain areas on campus.” The chief encouraged students to sign up for the Bowie State University Electronic Emergency System (BEES) so they can get timely alerts about campus emergencies. Approximately 3,300 students and employees have signed up so far, a little more than half of the population.
Students were also encouraged to link their personal email address to their BSU email so they will get important University information.