UCAR takes avian flu precautions
Steve Sadler. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)
As concerns grow worldwide about the possibility of an avian influenza pandemic, UCAR is taking several precautions to protect staffers.
Avian flu, also known as bird flu, is worrying health experts because it is a highly dangerous virus that has killed dozens of people in several Southeast Asian countries and in Turkey, in additional to wiping out large populations of birds. In most cases, human victims are believed to have contracted the virus from infected poultry rather than from other people. But the disease could spread rapidly if it gains the ability to be transmitted from person to person.
If avian flu were to ever make its way to the Boulder area, UCAR would work with local public health officials and follow their recommendations, says Safety and Site Services director Steve Sadler. But UCAR is also taking certain steps proactively:
• The organization held a series of seminars for staffers last summer about communicable diseases, and it is planning to hold additional seminars in coming months. The schedule will be posted in Today@UCAR. Steve says the seminars will focus on recognizing and preventing the spread of several diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and tuberculosis, as well as avian flu.
• UCAR is tracking each outbreak of avian flu, including recent cases in Turkey. Whenever a case is confirmed, the nation in which it occurs is added to UCAR's hazardous country list. Any staffers traveling to such a country are briefed on how to remain safe and recognize symptoms.
• In the event that Boulder is directly affected by avian flu or another dangerous communicable disease, UCAR is preparing to enable as many staffers as possible to work from home. To that end, the organization is increasing the capacity of its computer system to allow 1,000 users at a time to access it remotely—up from the current capacity of 100.
Steve talks regularly with local public health officials who are tracking the disease. "We are monitoring the situation and making sure we are prepared," Steve explains. "A lot of our focus at this stage is employee education."
SaSS's concern about avian flu is an outgrowth of its ongoing work to guard the organization from potential hazards. It advises staffers traveling to areas where there is political instability or unhealthy conditions, and it oversees security at UCAR buildings.
• by David Hosansky
On the Web
Centers for Disease Control avian flu information
Here are a few simple measures to reduce your risk of catching viruses:
• Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water. Because viruses enter the body at mucous membranes, hand washing before eating, or touching your face, eyes, or nose, is particularly important.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sneezing or coughing. Sneezed droplets will easily travel five feet through the air at 100 miles per hour.
• Clean items that are regularly touched, such as doorknobs and telephones. Frequently touched surfaces in public areas at UCAR facilities are sanitized each evening by the custodial staff. Employees are responsible for the cleanliness of individual workspaces.
• Get an annual flu shot.• If you are ill, take steps to prevent spreading the virus. Go home if you develop a fever of 100.4°F or 38°C. Catch your sneezes and coughs in a tissue (then throw it away and wash your hands) or in the crook of your elbow. Avoid coughing or sneezing into your bare hands because they will touch lots of surfaces before you can wash them.
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