Updated 9:14 p.m.
Although swine flu has not been declared a pandemic or reached areas near Chicago, Northwestern has an emergency plan ready in case the disease comes to Evanston, officials said Monday.
“Northwestern has a very well-developed pandemic plan” based on recommendations from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, said associate professor Dirk Brockmann, who researches the spread of pandemics. Brockmann said he could not go into detail about the plan.
The U.S. government declared a public health emergency Sunday when several instances of the disease were discovered. As of April 27 at 1 p.m., there were 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., according to the CDC. In Mexico, the swine flu has claimed more than 100 lives, according to news reports.
No cases have been confirmed in Illinois or any of its neighboring states, although health officials are currently examining potential cases in Michigan and Indiana.
The university issued a statement Monday morning saying “there are plans and procedures in place to ensure an effective response.”
“No changes to University operations or activities are currently planned as a result of swine flu,” the statement said.
The e-mail also mentioned that leaders and health personnel met Monday to discuss Northwestern’s response if the situation were to change, and that Northwestern had been preparing for the potential pandemic outbreak.
Brockmann and a team of researchers are currently working on simulations that will be able to determine the rate at which swine flu will spread in the United States and Europe and “predict the probability that a certain region will be infected” by looking at how people travel and move around. For example, there is a lot of human traffic between New York and Los Angeles, so those two areas have increased risk, he said.
“The swine flu has not reached the stage of a pandemic yet, even though there were confirmed cases in the United States and Mexico and Europe,” he said. “In respect to the entire population, that number is still small.”
The swine flu was once categorized as a respiratory disease found in pigs but can now be spread like a seasonal flu between humans. The World Health Organization has changed the alert of swine flu from three, which states that the disease is predominantly found in animals, to four, which means the disease is in a phase of “sustained human to human interaction.” Phases five and six denote “widespread human infection.”
The entire statement from the university is below.
Message sent – 4/27/2009
Northwestern response to swine flu
Dear Members of the Northwestern University Community:
The federal government on April 26, 2009 declared a public health emergency after several cases of swine flu were confirmed in the United States. It is expected that more cases will be confirmed in the coming days.
Northwestern University, along with public agencies across the country, has been preparing for the potential of a pandemic for a number of years. Although the swine flu has not been declared a pandemic, there are plans and procedures in place to ensure an effective response.
No cases of swine flu have been reported at Northwestern. No changes to University operations or activities are currently planned as a result of swine flu. University leaders, health services and emergency management personnel met today to plan the University’s response now and in the future if circumstances change. Northwestern will follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other appropriate agencies in the University’s response to this issue. The University will continue to monitor the situation and will keep the Northwestern community informed. Any Northwestern students, faculty or staff who are planning foreign travel in the near future are advised to consult the International SOS web page on the issue.
For additional information, here are several links:
US Center for Disease Control
Northwestern University Health Services