Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update first

University prepares as flu becomes a worldwide pandemic

The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the H1N1 swine flu outbreak worldwide had reached pandemic levels.

 While that announcement does not require any immediate action on the U-M campuses, it does mean the university community must be prepared for a return visit from the flu in the fall, says Dr. Robert Winfield, the university’s chief health officer
U-M’s All Hazards Planning Group has met repeatedly since the current outbreak and will meet again today, where just those types of preparations will be discussed, Winfield says.

 “It’s important to understand we have seen only a modest increase in influenza-like illness on the U-M campuses,” Winfield says. “But we absolutely have to be prepared for more widespread influenza during the usual flu season starting this fall.”

Winfield also says it is important to understand what the WHO action means as well as what it does not mean. The WHO action indicates that the new strain of flu has continued to spread to many regions throughout the world. On the other hand, the virus has not become more dangerous or more deadly.

 The WHO announcement indicated that more than 70 countries are now reporting cases of human infection with novel H1N1 flu. This number has been increasing over the past few weeks, but many of the cases reportedly had links to travel or were localized outbreaks without community spread.

In Michigan, the state Department of Community Health reports 418 confirmed cases of the flu with two deaths. Washtenaw County has reported 47 confirmed cases.