WEB EXCLUSIVE: Kent State planning for avian flu

Derek Lenehan

Preparation for a possible pandemic avian flu outbreak is still growing, with all levels of the government getting involved.

On campus, the Kent Health Department is following Ohio’s guidelines in the event of an outbreak.

“If there were a case in, say, New York, and a vaccination were available, we would participate in a county-wide inoculation clinic,” Commissioner John Ferlito said. “In the event of an outbreak with no vaccine, we would issue breathing masks and encourage people to stay in their homes.”

Ferlito also explained that a case of avian flu from a student in the residence halls would be treated by quarantine.

“We would isolate the person, in that scenario, though they would probably be isolated in the hospital already. If not, the university has space allotted on campus to isolate the patient in, where nurses could monitor and assist them,” Ferlito said.

Locally, Portage County has been preparing similarly to the university.

“We’ve been working together with the university,” said Kelly Englehart, of the Portage County Health Department. “Our county-wide terrorism task force covers pandemic flu as well as biological terrorism. In the event of a pandemic, the public needs to know that they have to stay at home as much as possible.”

Englehart also said the county is monitoring all local schools for reports of influenza.

Federally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no specific preparations have been made, as there have been no human cases in the United States yet, though preventive measures were being taken, including:

  • Coordinating stockpiles of antiviral medications such as Tamiflu.
  • Supporting research for the development of an avian flu vaccine.
  • Training local governments for proper responses to an outbreak.
  • Monitoring hospitals and medical facilities for any cases.

The avian flu is still only communicable from animals to humans. All measures taken are in preparation of the virus mutating, and becoming communicable between humans.

The mortality rate for humans who contract the avian flu is about 50 percent.

Contact news correspondent Derek Lenehan at [email protected].