Swine flu infects first wave of Cap U students

"Several students” have confirmed being hit with Swine flu (H1N1), according to Capilano’s Human Resources Vice President, Mike Arbogast. Although three weeks ago, students were alerted by classroom signs and leaflets that certain classes had been sanitized, there was no mention that Cap students had even been suspected of having the H1N1 flu. Similarly, on October 14, an email was sent out to students alerting them that Cap’s administration was taking a “proactive approach” to dealing with H1N1 while providing further documentation for students - but no confirmation of student infection was mentioned in the email either. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, schools are not under a mandatory obligation to inform students if other students have been affected by H1N1.

“They reacted a little slow in my case, since I already had the flu for several days before the [October 14] email was sent out,” Paul says. Paul, who asked for his last name to not be revealed, is a Cap student who has contracted H1N1. He has been absent from all of his classes for at least three weeks, up until the time of this interview, due to his H1N1 flu. He informed his instructor but not the administration. Instructors are required to report to administration, as that’s how Human Resources is gauging the campus’ levels of H1N1.

Arbogast believes that Cap U was well prepared for H1N1. He notes that Human Resources had all computers and keyboards sanitized in August and a hand-washing booth set up on September 30. Marketing and Communications provided H1N1 information, prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with Student Orientation packages on September 8, as well as 10 posters on student bulletin boards. facilities also did “extra cleaning” in classrooms used by students who had reported cases of H1N1. A website, videos, and other information alerts were also set up. Nowhere in the list of precautions taken by the University was a notification given to the student body that there were confirmed cases of H1N1 on campus. The closest Capilano got to giving a confirmation were the emails sent on October 14 and 29. As to why neither emails contained confirmation that students on campus had H1N1, Arbogast responded:

“No decision was made one way or another.” Arbogast acknowledged that sending a confirmation would create panic, but believed such panic would be unnecessary. He stressed the “personal responsibility” of the student in presuming that there ought to be H1N1 cases on campus: “You absolutely know by basic statistics that someone in this place, and on the bus, will have the flu.”

As for the actual contents of the email, Paul felt that the email’s information was helpful, as it seemed to answer the general concerns of most students. Nevertheless, the timing of the October 14 email was Paul’s greatest concern, as he added: “They could have been a little more on the ball considering all the warnings over the past few months.”

Administration emails that are sent out to all 7,400 registered students usually have an eight hour delay, but Paul’s notification was made days before. The Communicable Disease Control (CDC) did contact Cap U and other post-secondary institutions three weeks earlier, on September 22, to discuss H1N1 prevention procedures. Afterwards, with the aid of an H1N1 committee put together by Capilano’s administration, dates for 6000 cost-free vaccinations were set up. The dates for the vaccination will occur on November 17 and 18, for a “two day blitz,” according to Arbogast. A major part of the “blitz” was coordinated by Mary Ciccone, Capilano U’s Health Services’ nurse. She informed the UBC Health Services that Capilano, “don’t have the staff” to carry out any vaccinations and asked for their assistance. UBC’s School of Nursing offered to provide their nurses to assist Capilano, as part of their practicum.

The delay in response, from the confirmation that students had H1N1 to the actual set up for a date for vaccination, is partly due to how the federal government has prioritized who gets vaccinated first. The vaccine itself was approved on October 21 by Health Canada. Demographics that are more susceptible to the flu virus, such as senior citizens, and pregnant women, are provided access to the vaccine before the student demographic.

On October 29, Human Resources emailed students the dates for vaccination. Now that the Capilano student’s demographic will be vaccinated, who is eligible will remain open - if a Cap student has a child that they’d like to be vaccinated, they will not be turned away. As for residents near campus who show up to be vaccinated, Mike Arbogast responded: “If it happens, it happens,” because the vaccine is free and meant for all of public. Although the government provides the vaccine free, “[Capilano U] still has to pay the extras. We have to do our own food, our own supplies… There is a cost to us, we don’t get everything free.”

// alamir novin, editor

Capilano’s Dates for Vaccination

Tuesday, November 17th
8am to 6pm

Wednesday, November 18th
8am to 4pm

NOTE: We anticipate peak times will be from
11:30am to 1pm each day, so please plan accordingly.

There will be no cost for the immunization.

There will be several immunization stations set up. We suggest you wear a loose fitting top as the vaccine will be given in the upper arm.

Juice and cookies will be available.

-Mike Arbogast
VP-Human Resource

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com